April 30th, 2008
I have listened to viewers in four states spread across the country over the last few weeks – and they are saying loud and clear – "It's all about my wallet."
High gas prices, high credit card debt, high anxiety about paying their bills have your local TV viewers focused squarely on their purses and wallets. So forget trying to entice them with your pre-planned special reports about on-line dating, or slum lords or school safety or any other subjects during this May sweeps – they want basic, solid information on how to survive this crazy economy.
So harken back to the words of Bill Clinton to keep his message on point during his election campaign – "It's about the economy stupid." One of my clients is doing a month long sweeps push called Money May during their late news – offering money-saving tips on a variety of subjects and asking viewers to share their ideas.
Believe me the viewers I have listened to in focus groups over the past couple of months would be watching those reports every night. It is, after all, "all about my wallet."
So, I encourage you to put money as the first item to be discussed in every editorial meeting. Your viewers are ready to tune in to learn how to cope in today's economy.
And make no mistake, it is basic survival ideas. It's not about which stock to buy or anything else on that level – it is more like how to negotiate with my credit card company because I've fallen behind on my payments.
Oh, and one more thing. They are really tired of you telling them every day that gas prices are up again from yesterday. Be helpful instead. Tell then where to find the cheapest gas and save a few pennies a gallon.
April 28th, 2008
When you fly on a commercial airliner, can you tell whether the pilot is ex-Navy or ex-Air Force? Today's blog has nothing to do with TV but hopefully will introduce you to an interesting game to play next time you hit the friendly skies.
I was reminded of the difference today during my "E ticket" ride from Dallas to South Carolina on an American Eagle. It was a bumpy ride – made even more "thrilling" because our pilot was ex-Navy.
How could I tell? This guy was flying the plane like it was a sports car – zigging and zagging, steeply banking hard left as we approached the airport, and culminating in a fast landing with a thud of tires on the landing strip. Clearly this guy was used to landing on aircraft carriers bobbing in the ocean.
Now, an Air Force pilot is much smoother at the controls, and used to landing on terra firma. They make a long gliding landing at the airport with a soft touchdown.
Far-fetched? Uh-uh. Next time you fly play the game – decide which category fits your pilot – and ask him (or her) as you head off the plane. You can amaze your friends!
April 26th, 2008
It is time to revive the ancient art of TNG. One way to easily showcase your anchors as reporters – and to easily add fresh, updated content to your newscasts is TNG – the two decade's old idea from AR&D called Telephone News Gathering.
Don't have the time, or a photographer to send your anchor out to report on a story? No problem. Simply have them pick up the phone and called the sheriff to update an ongoing news story.
Then in the newscast, the anchor can say, "I checked with the sheriff just moments ago and she says…" It shows your anchor as a working journalist and it adds new, very fresh info to the newscast.
As I said, AR&D first espoused this concept over two decades ago, and like lots of good ideas it probably has fallen by the wayside in your shop. Well, it is time to once again to go back to the future and put it to work in your newsroom. It expands your newsgathering resources and showcases your hard working anchor.
April 24th, 2008
It is time for local news anchors to get out of the chair and back on the street. Back in the day, anchors reported all the time. A relatively few do today, but most have turned into nothing more than news readers. They come in late and read the news – and you pay them a lot of money.
News Directors have only themselves to blame for allowing this to happen. Back when I was news director in Phoenix I hired a terrific hard-working journalist to anchor my main newscasts. She'd been an anchor/EP at her previous station.
For the first few months she asked every day – "Want me to go out an report?" But we usually had our photogs tied up on stories, and had planned nothing for her. After a few months she quit asking and turned into a anchor in the strictest sense. As the leader of the newsroom it was my own fault for letting this happen.
Well, we need to go back to the future when it comes to anchors hitting the streets. With budget and staff reductions I believe the day of the "I only sit in my anchor chair and read the news" anchor is old school thinking.
The anchor of the future will report a story in addition to reading the news. It is part of the next generation of TV news employees who MUST be multi-taskers.
Of course, the only ones who can make this happen are the news directors who let the anchors just sit in their chairs in the first place. If you don't get them out of those chairs you are wasting a valuable resource in a sea of shrinking resources.
April 22nd, 2008
For years, I have been pointing out to TV news staffs that they are different than their customers. News people religiously follow the events happening locally and in the world. Your customers don't.
Now, some would argue that in this plugged-in world we live in today that more of your customers have to know what's going on. I mean between the constant drone of the cable news channels, expanded local news times, the Internet, cell phone text updates, radio, newspapers, word of mouth at work etc. – how can anyone not be informed – even if they don't actively pursue news updates?
But chew on this – we recently asked viewers in a Midwest market this question in a telephone study: When you watch a late newscast have you usually gotten local news and information from another source earlier that day OR when you watch is it usually the first source you go to get local news and information?
32% of all viewers said the late newscast was their First Source for local news and information for the entire day! 37% said they already had some knowledge of the local news of the day from another source. The other third of the viewers didn't watch a late newscast.
So – those stats prove once again that you are not like your viewers. It also points out the need to serve late news viewers on two levels as you write your stories – you must include enough information for the third of your audience that has no knowledge of the story, and also include updated information for the the third of your audience that already has some knowledge of the local news of the day.
Hey, nobody said it would be easy!
April 17th, 2008
Local TV newscasts have been making viewers angry for years. Now you're doing it at an even higher level as you try to send viewers to your station website.
Every time we do focus groups viewers complain that local TV newscasts promise a story and then make you "wait for the entire newscast to see it." That's why I am a zealot about promising one story as being "NEXT" and then delivering that promised story first after the commercial break.
But this approach is a rarity outside of the AR&D clients who have bought into my "Next" rant. Now I see newscast after newscast that also tease viewers to their website – instead of delivering information they come to your local newscast to see. Congratulations – you have added another level of frustration for your local news viewers!
Over and over I see stories like – "there are seven ways to save money when you go grocery shopping. Go to our website for all the information." What? Why am I wasting my time watching your newscast.
While it is admirable to desire to send viewers to your station website – and there is increasing pressure to do just that – you must give them extra information if they make that journey. And you darn sure have to give them a complete story in the newscast – not give them half the info – and tell them to go on the web to get the rest.
So today's message is this: Give your viewers the whole story (it is why they come to your newscast) and then promise them more in-depth information on your website (and of course deliver on that promise). And one more thing – don't send them to the web on nearly every story in the newscast. I have seen this a great deal lately too. It is a huge irritant.
Watch your newscast tonight. See if you are guilty of providing a whole new level of irritation for your viewers.
April 15th, 2008
Greetings from the NAB/RTNDA convention in Las Vegas.
It is a lonely place compared to the good old days when news directors would gather in hospitality suites in one hotel and swap stories, network, and solve the world's problems.
There are over 100,000 people at this convention – but only a sliver of them are at the RTNDA. The NAB exhibits sprawl for hundreds of yards across the Las Vegas convention center. The RTNDA exhibits are tucked in a corner off the walkway between the convention center and the Hilton. Many walk by – few walk in.
It seemed like a good idea at the time – combine the conventions so the news directors and the chief engineers could attend together and find the right equipment for their stations. The pocket-protector crowd is still here – the news directors seem to have vanished.
These are difficult times in broadcasting, and station management seems to view the RTNDA as a "perk" and the NAB as a necessity. There must be enough money in the budget to invest in growing your news director's knowledge base one week a year?
There is another issue with these combined conventions. The RTNDA gets lost. Back in the day, we all went to one hotel, hung out in hospitality suites, swapped stories, and learned how to be better news directors. Now the relatively few news directors in attendance are housed in hotels miles and miles apart and there is no central gathering place.
It is time for two things to happen: The RTNDA needs to go back to their own convention in some city around the country and station's need to invest the relatively small dollars needed to allow their news director to network and get mentored one week per year.
That's my opinion. I want to hear yours.