Local News Beyond 6 and 11: How Businesses Can Benefit
By Dave Armon, CEO, Critical Mention
Visit the “Critical Now” Channel on CommPRO.biz for more insight.
The economic environment has mandated that newsrooms operate as lean, mean news reporting machines. That has meant fewer feet, cameras and microphones on the street for many print and broadcast news organizations. At the same time, those lucky journalists still drawing a paycheck are responsible for generating an even larger amount of content in a multitude of formats.
Understanding how these outlets are using innovative digital technologies can assist businesses of all sizes as they search for ways to tell their story and attract new customers. Here’s an overview of what you need to know as a business leader to grow you visibility and bottom line via the press these days:
THE CONNECTED AUDIENCE
Today, more than ever, broadcasters must reach their audiences using all means possible. In the digital age, information travels fast and consumers are no longer waiting for the six o-clock news to stay on top of their topics of interest; they demand immediate access to information.
Every successful broadcast news operation is engaging with viewers using Twitter and the station’s web site. These additional channels – along with social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest – will be crucial for these local brands to remain relevant as audiences move away from broadcast television.
Why are TV news operations rushing online at such a fast pace? Survival. Deloitte reported in January that nine million Americans have either pulled out their cable TV or are planning to yank cable.
As consumers stop relying primarily on cable and satellite platforms to deliver programming, they appear willing to sacrifice those familiar talking heads who deliver their local news, weather and sports. Local news audiences will be impacted dramatically as consumers opt for myriad Internet-connected devices delivering everything from inane-but-popular stupid pet trick videos to live college basketball games and full seasons of Mad Men on-demand.
Devices like Apple TV, Roku and game consoles have made it possible for any television set to receive content from Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, HBO GO and dozens of lesser known cloud-based sources of programming. Manufacturers like Sony are also incorporating GoogleTV technology so consumers can watch YouTube from their own couch.
Those shopping for a new television can find so-called IPTV sets for less than $400. Right out of the box, these TVs connect to wireless networks and are preloaded with just about every social network and video platform. Everything, that is, except for local network affiliates that have dominated for decades.
As if the fragmentation involving the living room isn’t worrisome enough for executives at traditional media companies, consumers are now using tablets and smart phones to bypass both their web browser and TV set. More than half of U.S. mobile phone owners have watched video on their devices, reports comScore.
CHANGING PARADIGM FOR LOCAL NEWS
One segment of traditional media relishing these developments is print. For years, the newspaper industry was the poster child for changing information consumption habits. Print executives readily acknowledged that names in the obituaries mirrored their circulation lists. But print is adapting quickly, and in a way that threatens broadcasters. Newspapers like the News-Herald in suburban Cleveland; the Time-News in Erie, Pa., and the Saratogian in northern New York are taking advantage of lower video production, bandwidth, production and delivery costs and creating video programming that leverages their status as a recognized– and many times the most sometimes the most trusted – media brand in their respective markets.
It was the News-Herald, not local network affiliates, providing long-form coverage of a church vigil for victims of a school shooting in Chardon, Ohio. Weeks earlier, when a McDonald’s was robbed, the News-Herald had the first video from the scene, including interviews with those in the eatery when it was hit.
We’ve been watching the evolution of newspapers into Americas next broadcasters. Starting with the distribution of $150 Flip camcorders during a weekly editorial meeting, reporters were asked to conduct business as usual – concentrating on print stories — and then do a quick on-camera interview about the person they just interviewed.
The videos were a hit. Advertisers showed their support by sponsoring newspaper web sites. Reporters liked their new-found fame. News sources started thinking about print differently.
The early success of online video for newspapers sparked creation of Digital First Media, headed by CEO John Paton and including MediaNews Group and Journal Register Company. Together, this journalism powerhouse contains more than 800 digital and print products in 18 states serving 57 million customers per month.
What is expected from Digital First is an ambitious line-up of live video news to web browsers and mobile devices. No word yet on whether your local newspaper will schedule their daily webcast at 6 or 11.
IMPLICATIONS FOR BUSINESSES
Many of us in business want to showcase our products, people and events in the media. Too often, we jump to conclusions about Story A being right for TV while Story B is destined for print.
The paradigm shift toward all media outlets operating in real-time, engaging with their audiences on social media platforms, and generating online video presents more opportunity, and a few threats.
- The chance to score two hits – a print story that spikes attention for a day and an archived video piece that can live on for weeks, months and even years.
- Content that is eminently more sharable than something immortalized in ink and paper.
- Ability to showcase aesthetics – products, locations, events, colors, people, culture — that don’t lend themselves easily to words.
- Additional outlet for company-produced b-roll (background video shot by a business and provided to news outlets to illustrate a story).
- Excuse to meet additional news executives at local outlets and trades. Knowing the goals of the digital editor and rules of engagement will help secure coverage and avoid missteps.
Complications abound, too:
- Executives who might not hesitate to be a source for a print reporter can get cold feet when the Flip comes out.
- Formal on-camera media training will be de rigueur prior to all interviews, not just the visit by 60 Minutes.
- Learning curves are steep for cost-conscious media organizations without producers, editors and tech support teams to assist novice reporters with their new multimedia gear.
- Obtaining precise measurement data for audience size and impact will be an added complication for many PR professionals.