Lessons from the Instagram Local News Fellowship

Mizzou students Abby Ivory-Ganja and Marlee L. Baldridge are at the Online News Association Conference to cover tech and innovation sessions for RJI. Visit our ONA page to see all the coverage. 

Story by Abby Ivory-Ganja Video by Marlee Baldridge



In the summer of 2019, Instagram and the Missouri School of Journalism created the Instagram Local News Fellowship, where three recent graduates were placed at three metro papers across the country. In a session at ONA, the fellows and editors from the papers shared their takeaways from working together. 


Post less

Devin Smith from the Boston Globe said before the fellowship, the Globe was posting around 3-4 times a day in their feed. But Grace Lett, the Globe’s Instagram Fellow, found that posts performed better if they only posted in the feed 1-2 times a day. 


Stay local

Before the fellowship, the Globe would regularly post wire photos. But after Grace and Devin took a closer look at the account’s analytics, they found that followers engaged more in photos that highlighted Boston sports and city scenery. The team decided to stop posting wire photos and started to focus on delivering more local content. “Let’s focus on local and what we do really well,” Devin Smith said. 


Utilize Instagram’s native features 

Both the Boston Globe and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch used Instagram Stories to drive traffic back to their sites. They utilized the “swipe up for more” feature in Stories to link back to the news organizations. After posting a link in Stories, which is only up for 24 hours, the Globe would get 500 referrals back to its site.  The Globe also made an Instagram Story quiz, using the native tool, to engage their followers. 


Keep it simple  

Not all stories need to be long. Followers will not always stick around in a 10 slide story. Instead, Emily Dunn, the Post-Dispatch Instagram Fellow, said she would post shorter stories. Sometimes she would post stories with three slides or even just one slide to keep followers engaged. 

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