How to Newsjack a Story to Skyrocket Drive Traffic

Updated on: January 2, 2024
Newsjacking is a technique publishers use to piggyback on trending news stories to promote their stories.

Newsjacking. Sounds pretty cool, and I bet you’ve heard of it before, but you might not know what it is.

Well, let me sum it up for you; newsjacking is the process of taking a trending story and piggybacks on its popularity to engage your target audience.

Some say it’s about playing the news for attention — trying to get as many eyeballs on your content as possible. Others say it’s about adding value and being helpful — using trending topics to educate your target audience.

Either way, newsjacking is a powerful strategy growing in popularity among publishers. But how can you make a trend out of thin air and news jack the right way to generate buzz?

I will show you exactly how you can do and master this and make it work for you while mitigating the risks and challenges.

Newsjacking is a term coined by journalist David Meerman Scott as “the art of piggybacking news stories to get your product in front of journalists, bloggers, and other thought leaders.” The process involves using current events as an opportunity to promote products or services.

Why Your Publishers Need to Newsjack (Now!)

Newsjacking is all about taking advantage of trending stories and using them as a means to get your content in front of more people.

It works because people are naturally curious about what’s happening in the world. When something big happens — like an election or sports tournament — people want to know more about it because it affects their lives somehow.

When done right, it can provide a range of benefits for publishers:

1. A Wider Audience Reach

Newsjacking is a strategy that helps you take advantage of trending stories and events to broaden your audience. It’s all about pinpointing news stories or topics that resonate with your brand or content and then creatively linking your message or offerings to those stories.

Whether it’s a local happening or a global sensation, if a story is making headlines, chances are people will be intrigued. By connecting your content to these trends, you can ride the wave of interest and attract more people to your brand.

Crafting timely and relevant content that ties into breaking news or hot topics draws more visitors to your website and keeps them engaged longer. This can result in more pageviews, reduced bounce rates, and increased time spent on your site.

2. Increased Engagement

Newsjacking presents a unique chance to connect with your audience by offering valuable insights into the latest breaking stories.

If your readers are already following a story closely and seeking more information, they may be more inclined to click on links that provide these details.

Additionally, newsjacking boosts user engagement on your site by delivering content that captures their immediate interest. If a user is drawn to a specific story or topic, they’re likely to spend more time on your site exploring new developments and potentially browsing other related articles as well.

3. Drive Social Media Shares

The more people share your content on social media channels, the more exposure you’ll receive from those networks. By tying current events into your content, you can increase the likelihood that people will share it with their friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites like LinkedIn or TikToK.

A great example of this is when Disney created an animated GIF of Darth Vader singing along to the “Star Wars” theme song from its upcoming movie “The Force Awakens.” The GIF was shared thousands of times across social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter.

4. Enhanced Brand Reputation and Credibility

Newsjacking can help you establish your brand as a thought leader and trusted source of information in your industry.

You can build credibility and trust with your audience and potential advertisers or customers by providing timely and accurate insights on breaking news or trending topics.

Besides, linking your content or brand to these stories can attract the attention of journalists, bloggers, influencers, and social media users who are actively following and discussing the topic. This can increase exposure, brand visibility, and potentially new followers or customers.

Newsjacking also enables you to build relationships with influencers in your industry who might share your content with their followers.

How Can Publishers Implement Newsjacking?

Newsjacking isn’t new. It may sound like a new marketing strategy to integrate into your media game, all in a jiffy — but that’s not the case.

Newsjacking has been around for quite some time, and by now, you might have understood that it is nothing more than taking a trending topic and having your brand be the first to act on it to grab the attention of new audiences.

But what are these newsjacking opportunities?

The pursuit of newsjacking opportunities is not as easy as it may sound, and there can be some complications in trying to figure out which ones will have the biggest impact on your business.

So how does a publisher go about identifying these newsjackings with minimal effort? While there’s no “one size fits all” answer, a few of them have become apparent over time, and I will discuss them in more detail.

1. Set up Google Alerts: Create customized Google Alerts for relevant keywords and topics within your industry. This will notify you whenever news or events related to those keywords are published online. Stay updated with the latest information and identify potential newsjacking opportunities. Choose the frequency of your alerts – “as-it-happens,” “daily,” or “weekly.” Pick based on your needs and how quickly you want to act on newsjacking opportunities.

2. Follow industry influencers and thought leaders: Identify influential individuals within your industry and follow them on social media platforms. Pay close attention to their updates, discussions, and content sharing. It could indicate a potential newsjacking opportunity when they mention or engage with breaking news or trending topics.

3. Monitor social media hashtags and trends: Keep a close eye on popular hashtags and trending topics on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Use social listening tools to track conversations around these hashtags and identify relevant news or events you can capitalize on through newsjacking.

4. Utilize real-time monitoring tools: Use tools like BuzzSumo, Feedly, or Mention to track news and trending stories in your industry. These tools provide insights into popular articles, social media discussions, and emerging topics, enabling you to identify newsjacking opportunities promptly.

5. Analyze competitor news coverage: Monitor the news coverage of your competitors and other leading publishers in your industry. Identify the topics and events they cover and assess whether there are opportunities to provide a unique or alternative perspective. Find gaps in their coverage and leverage them for newsjacking.

6. Engage with your audience: Actively engage with your audience through comments, social media, and forums. Pay attention to their discussions and questions. If you notice a recurring topic or question about current events, consider crafting content or articles that address those issues and tie them to the ongoing news.

7. Establish relationships with journalists and reporters: Develop relationships with journalists and reporters who cover your industry. You can stay informed about upcoming stories and potential new opportunities by building connections with them. Offer yourself as a resource for expert opinions or insights when relevant news breaks.

Real-World Examples of Newsjacking by Publishers

To better understand how newsjacking works in practice, let’s take a look at three real-world examples of publishers who have successfully leveraged this strategy.

1. The Huffington Post: Live Blogging the U.S. Presidential Election

In the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, The Huffington Post capitalized on the trending topic by creating a live blog. This platform provided minute-by-minute updates, commentary, and analysis, drawing in readers who were following the election closely and wanted real-time updates. By newsjacking this major event, The Huffington Post was able to significantly increase its audience reach and engagement.

2. BuzzFeed: Capitalizing on the Pokémon Go Craze

BuzzFeed is known for its quick response to trending topics. When the “Pokémon Go” game was at its peak, BuzzFeed published numerous articles related to the game, including guides, tips, and stories about unusual incidents involving the game. This newsjacking strategy helped BuzzFeed attract a significant amount of traffic from Pokémon Go players and fans, demonstrating the power of timely and relevant content.

3. TechCrunch: Covering the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

TechCrunch often newsjacking product launches and tech events. For instance, during the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), TechCrunch publishes a series of articles covering product announcements, providing analysis, and even hosting live streams. By newsjacking this major tech event, TechCrunch was able to capture a large portion of the audience interested in CES, boosting its visibility and credibility in the tech industry.

Challenges and Risks

Before you can get really excited about a meme, there needs to be a lot of preparation involved. The same goes for newsjacking. You need to have the right post, blog, or tweet ready before you start it.

1. Avoiding Insensitive or Offensive Content

When newsjacking, ensuring your content is not insensitive or offensive to individuals or groups is important. This can be particularly challenging when dealing with sensitive or controversial topics.

If you’re not careful, you can do more harm than good by posting something that offends people. But there are ways to get around this problem.

One way to avoid this is by following some basic best practices:

  1. Don’t use profanity in the headline or content of your post.
  2. Never use offensive language or imagery to get attention, such as racial slurs and jokes about sexual orientation, disability, religion, or physical appearance.
  3. Avoid making generalizations about groups of people based on stereotypes, such as all women love pink things (or all men are lazy). This type of messaging can be particularly problematic if used in an attempt at humor because it can reinforce negative stereotypes about certain groups of people that may not be true for everyone in that group.

2. Balancing Speed and Accuracy in Reporting

When it comes to newsjacking, speed is an important consideration. It’s generally much better to report on a story as it breaks rather than after the fact. This is because the story will be fresher in people’s minds, and the topics discussed will be more current.

However, it’s also important to maintain high standards of accuracy and integrity. This can be challenging when reporting on breaking news or rapidly evolving situations. Here are a few considerations to uphold accuracy:

  1. Verify information: In the rush to be the first to report, it’s crucial to verify the facts before publishing. Rely on multiple reputable sources to confirm the details and cross-check information to avoid spreading rumors or falsehoods.
  2. Attribute sources: Clearly attribute the sources of information to give proper credit and allow readers to evaluate the reliability of the information themselves. Cite the sources accurately and transparently.
  3. Avoid speculation: Stick to reporting confirmed facts and avoid speculating or spreading unverified information. Clearly distinguish between what is known and what is still uncertain or under investigation.
  4. Provide context: Offer background information and context to help readers understand the broader picture. This can include historical context, related events, or expert opinions that provide a balanced perspective.
  5. Update and correct: As new information emerges, update your reports accordingly. If errors or inaccuracies are discovered, issue corrections promptly and transparently. Acknowledging mistakes helps maintain credibility and trust.
  6. Ethical considerations: Consider the potential impact of your reporting on individuals, communities, and society as a whole. Respect privacy, avoid unnecessary harm, and be sensitive to the emotions and experiences of those affected by the news.

Best Practices for Newsjacking

Looking for some inspiration on how to newsjack?

Here are some tips you can use to create a unique and compelling content piece that will grab the attention of your target audience.

1. Ensuring Relevance and Context When Newsjacking

When newsjacking, ensuring your content is relevant and provides context for the news or trending topic is important. It should provide value by explaining why something happened (if possible) or offering an interesting perspective on why it happened.

This can help you establish your brand as a trusted source of information and avoid appearing opportunistic or insensitive. If you’re not sure if a tweet is appropriate, you may want to consider the following:

  • Does your content align with your brand? Will it be perceived as authentic? Are you being genuine? If you don’t have an established reputation in this industry, staying away from controversial subjects is best until you build up credibility and trust.
  • Is there anything in your niche that has been covered recently? If so, you may not need to cover the same subject again because it will appear redundant or unoriginal.
  • What if other companies have already covered this story? In this case, try adding something new to the conversation by providing another angle or more information about how it affects consumers.

2. Creating Timely and High-quality Content

The news cycle is fast-paced, so if you want to get your brand in front of people’s eyes and minds, you must be ready when the moment strikes.

The key to newsjacking is speed. You need to be able to recognize a relevant story and create content about it quickly enough for people to see it before they’ve moved on to something else.

That said, speed isn’t everything — quality matters too.

Create content that’s accurate, informative, and engaging so that when people come across it, they won’t feel tricked into viewing your content by something that seemed important at the time but has already been forgotten by everyone else.

3. Leveraging Multimedia Formats Such as Videos and Infographics

It’s not just about the words you use.

Multimedia formats like videos and infographics can help you communicate complex information in a more engaging and shareable way. Consider using these formats to enhance your newsjacking content and increase its reach.

Let’s say a major sporting event like the FIFA World Cup is trending. As a newsjacking strategy, a sports publisher could create a video that features a professional athlete providing expert analysis and predictions for upcoming matches.

The video can be shared on social media platforms and embedded within related articles, offering valuable insights while capitalizing on the event’s excitement.

Here’s another example, during a political election, a news publisher could create an infographic comparing the stances of different candidates on key issues.

The infographic can present the information visually appealing and easily understandable, making it shareable on social media and embedding it within articles to provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the candidates’ positions.

News jacking

Wrapping Up

The concept of newsjacking can be a powerful tool for generating traffic, increasing exposure, and creating a buzz around a website. You can offer unique perspectives through original content by leveraging current news events.

However, it’s not sufficient to merely identify relevant topics and create content; you must also distribute that content through various media channels to fully tap into its potential. Utilizing popular media events as inspiration helps fill your website with easily shareable content, attracting more traffic in the process.

Using this method to your advantage can increase your content’s visibility and drive traffic back to your site. And who doesn’t want that?

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