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The list also recorded 37,000 shares on Facebook, according to WalesOnline

Credit: Image by owenwbrown on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Following in the footsteps of sites like BuzzFeed and fellow Trinity Mirror title UsVsTh3m, late last year WalesOnline made "quite a deliberate decision" to branch out further into the world of 'shareable content'.

In addition to their standard output, the site wanted to also deliver "shareable, mobile-friendly content" to its audience, and the response has been significant.

"January's been an incredible month for us," Paul Rowland, head of web for Media Wales, told Journalism.co.uk, with a recent article, titled '18 things English people won't know unless they've lived in Wales' said to have recorded 3.5 million pageviews after five days of going live.

"Before January it would have been the best thing we'd ever done by absolutely miles," he added.

While the more traditional coverage by the news site of the impact of recent storms still prompted "phenomenal traffic", the pageview statistics for the humourous list were much more surprising.

"We'd expect [high traffic] out of a major news event like that, but to have this kind of reaction to something like this is way bigger than we've had before."

The team had already seen "growing traffic to this kind of content", and now, as part of the new strategy, the aim is to produce specifically 'shareable content' most days.

And they have plenty of inspiration within Trinity Mirror alone, as it was only last year that the publishing group launched UsVsTh3m, a site dedicated to "topical funny stuff" with mobile readers particularly in mind. They have also since launched Ampp3d, described as a site for "socially-shareable data journalism".

The WalesOnline team met with those working on UsVsTh3m last year to share experiences. "We've learnt a lot of lessons from what they're doing and the successes they've had," Rowland said.

"Seeing the success they've had and the manner in which they've had it is certainly something we're trying to learn from and contribute to."

Many sites have started to produce more list-style content in recent months, an approach which tends to be associated with BuzzFeed, although it is worth noting that BuzzFeed itself produces content beyond lists, covering breaking news and long-form journalism, for example.

Rowland also stressed that this content is not replacing WalesOnline's more typical coverage. Instead it is being used "to complement it and that's been growing really encouragingly".

The recent 'spike' of 3.5 million views, however "is pretty unheard of for us", he said, having previously reached a high of around half a million views for a list.

So how did they achieve this? Rowland nodded to two parts of the strategy in particular, which he thinks helped to contribute to the success of the article, in addition to the overall subject area.

The thing we really nailed for this was the immediacy of each imagePaul Rowland, Media Wales
Firstly, he highlighted the importance of giving thought to the visual story being told, particularly where this may be being viewed on a mobile screen with limited space to "get the joke".

"The thing we really nailed for this was the immediacy of each image... You get the joke straight away, it's immediate and people don't have to think too much about it."

He added that a key lesson for future content has been "that things do best when they're clear, concise and you're making your point very, very simply".

Timing of the publication of the list also played a part, he said. The '18 things English people won't know unless they've lived in Wales' list was published on a Friday at around 4.30pm, and this "really helped it spread massively on Facebook", Rowland explained.

"It's exactly the kind of thing people look for at that time of day, at that time of the week particularly, going into the weekend. I do wonder whether it would have ridden such a big wave had we put it out say 10.30 Tuesday morning."

The team also aim to ensure high quality content at all times, regardless of whether the subject of a story is serious or less so.

"We work incredibly hard on these lists and I think the reason they work so well is because you can see that work," he said.

You can really tell the difference between stuff that's been thrown together in no time, lazily and with little effort and stuff that's really been thought throughPaul Rowland, Media Wales
"You can really tell the difference between stuff that's been thrown together in no time, lazily and with little effort and stuff that's really been thought through."

And it is not having an impact on the more 'serious' news content production of the newsroom, he added.

"We don't do this at the expense of anything, and we're growing our news output, just like we're growing our output of this kind of thing."

High pageviews is a positive when it comes to selling advertising revenue, but Rowland said there is also the wider benefit of spreading the word about the work of WalesOnline.

"We've got very little marketing budget, this has been shared 37,000 times on Facebook now and seen by nearly 300,000 people", he said. The share figure relates to the number of people who have clicked the article's Facebook 'share' button, while the latter figure relating to unique user statistics for the article.

"Pageviews aside, that's an awful lot of people that our content is put in front of, who wouldn't have seen it otherwise."

And interestingly, this content appears to be keeping those readers engaged with the rest of the site, with a bounce rate of just 14 per cent.

"That's 86 per cent of people who are coming to this, who are probably not aware of what we do but they're staying on our site to see other things we're doing," he said.

"We're getting these people in, it's a new audience for us, and we're managing to keep them in."

In terms of where the content is being shared, Facebook has taken centre-stage with 37,000 interactions. The team had learned the power of Facebook having watched the social analytics in relation to a previous list, '14 Welsh place names with no English vowels'.

"That was a real learning curve," Rowland said, "because we put that out on Twitter, and it did a bit, and was mid-ranking on our Chartbeat screens, and put that on Facebook 10 minutes later and it just shot to the top and stayed there for a couple of hours."

He added that this demonstrated the connection between this style of content and Facebook sharing, compared to Twitter.

"People use those articles to identify themselves with, whether it's how middle class are you or whether it's how Welsh are you, that's what those articles symbolise about people and that's how people use Facebook," Rowland explained.

"So they really are targeted towards Facebook. It did fairly well on Twitter but nothing like what it's done for us on Facebook."

Producing lists is something the team is continuing to pursue, alongside its usual coverage, with an ongoing Google document shared across the newsroom collecting ideas for future lists.

"A lot of them revolve around Welshness and Wales and things that make you proud to be Welsh, whether that's great places in Wales or things that only Welsh people do.

"It's all about our readership identifying themselves as being unique to English people or people who don't know Wales the way they do."

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