Stories That Touch Hearts Turns Gold For Tegna

Where does true innovation come from?

Often it’s as simple as bringing together some smart people and allowing them free range to present ideas and brainstorm.

Heart Threads began that way, born at a Tegna summit where new ideas for TV and digital were being discussed.

It started when someone wondered if the “feel-good” stories many Tegna stations were producing for their respective Facebook pages could be exposed to a larger audience.

Adam Ostrow

“These are the best stories about the best of us,” says Adam Ostrow, Tegna’s chief digital officer. Stories about hope, kindness, courage through adversity and ordinary people who make extraordinary differences.

Ostrow says Heart Threads began as just a Facebook initiative, but as you’ll see, that was just the beginning.

No. 1 Most Popular Heart Thread Facebook Post

In August of 2017, Heart Threads had 10,000 followers on Facebook. Today, it has 70,000.

In the beginning, the Tegna stations would flag stories they were producing that they thought would fit the Heart Threads brand and send them to the Heart Threads team.

The team would re-package the stories with Heart Threads branding, adding music and text, and then post them to the Heart Threads Facebook page for all the Tegna stations to share.

No. 2 Most Popular Heart Threads Facebook Post

But, “anyone outside our stations can air it as well,” says Ostrow.

Ostrow says the team was producing about one Heart Threads story a day on average, but “we’ve ramped that up a little.”

No. 3 Most Popular Heart Threads Facebook Post

No. 4 Most Popular Heart Threads Facebook Post

No. 5 Most Popular Heart Threads Facebook Post

Several Tegna stations (WXIA Atlanta; KXTV Sacramento, Calif.; and WTSP Tampa) are expanding the Heart Threads stories to TV, airing them in their morning news.

“It’s a nice feel-good story to start your day,” says Ostrow.

During the Winter Olympics, the Tegna stations in Seattle, KING, and Portland, Ore., KGW, sold sponsorships using the Heart Threads brand.

And Heart Threads helped with a marketing campaign for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Ostrow says Tegna is starting to monetize the Heart Threads stories, “build a business around it, both digitally and on TV, looking for opportunities to reach new audiences on a national level, but also develop a new digital revenue stream and a new advertising opportunity for our customers that want to be aligned with feel-good content.”

What’s next for Heart Threads?

Ostrow says it’s recently launched on Instagram and is considering YouTube, and is scaling it up on TV, making it attractive to national brands that “we typically wouldn’t be talking to.”

Heart Threads shows people real stories about all that is right with the human condition, and advertisers can align themselves with content that makes customers feel good.

That’s not a bad return for an idea that grew into real innovation.

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