• Are You Still The Brand/Content Manager?

    August 26th, 2008

    Are you a news director who is NEVER in your newsroom?  Are you so busy that you had no idea what the content of your newscasts was today?  Do you know if today's newscasts were delivered in your unique brand of journalism?

    During my nearly two decades of consulting, I have never had so many news directors who honestly answer “yes,” “yes,” and “no” to those three questions.  It has become nearly impossible to get my news director clients on the telephone – they seem to never be in their offices – and when they are they sound stressed with little time to talk.

    I have asked those news directors what's going on that causes these crazy, helter-skelter days for them.  The answers are as varied as the markets – some have expanded newscasts while cutting staff, some are still in the process of deciding who to layoff in this awful economy, some are re-working their budgets for the umpteenth time, some are constantly called away to meetings on a variety of subjects – the list goes on and on.

    Meanwhile, the news directors and their bosses wonder why the quality of the news product and the ratings have shown some slippage.  The reason is clear – the news director MUST be the brand and product manager.  They must have the vision for a news brand – based on research – that sets their style of journalism apart from the competition.  Without their steady hand on the tiller, the product invariably begins to drift.

    So – the advice today is that as a news director you must set aside a portion of your day to be heavily involved in the news product – to be the brand manager.  If you have properly trained your managers and news staff this need not be an all day process – but there are points during the day that you simply must be involved.

    Start with the morning meeting – which you must always attend – and where you set the coverage tone for the day.  Then turn the process over to your managers – until you attend the afternoon editorial meeting.  This is where you tweak the coverage for the day, assure the brand is front and center, and the journalism is unique and strong.  The third most important part of the day is watching the newscasts – and providing feedback.

    I guarantee that you will not be a successful news director – and you will not win the ratings – if you don't provide your vision every day during these three key periods.   Don't be so busy, being busy, that you forget your most important job as news director.

    I sure like to hear some thoughts on this subject.  Drop me a response.


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  • Local TV News Credibility Up

    August 18th, 2008

    Local TV news credibility is on the upswing according to the latest Pew Research Center study.  Of course, it is still less than a third of all viewers who “believe all or most of what the news organization says.”

    28% of all respondents said Local TV News when asked that credibility question.  That is six points lower than a decade ago.  It is also third overall – behind #1 CNN (30%, down 12% in a decade), and 60 Minutes #2 at 29% (down 6% since 1998).   Local TV News' credibility increased by 5% since the 2006 survey, and edges NPR by one percentage point.

    C-Span was next at 26%, while NBC News, ABC News and MSNBC were lumped together with 24% finding their information credible.  Fox News Channel was seen as credible by 23% in the Pew survey, and CBS News earned 22%.

    On the print side the Wall Street Journal was tops with25% saying the newspaper was credible.  “Your daily newspaper” was next up at 22%, followed by Time Magazine at 21%.  Only 16% said USA Today was credible – down 7% since 1998.

    The bottom two print publications in credibility – People Magazine at 8%, and the National Enquirer at 5%.  The Enquirer is up by two points in the last decade!

    In every AR&D research project over the past few years we have found that Accuracy is a big issue in most every local TV news market from coast to coast.  The Pew survey once again points out that local TV newscasts need to do a better job of proving to their customers that they have the story right, and the viewers can believe the information.

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  • Olympics Hooks Us With

    August 12th, 2008

    I'm not a big Olympics fan – but every night I find myself getting hooked into watching it for hours.  I'm not alone the ratings are strong across the country – really strong!

    I think the draw is the Olympics is the ultimate reality TV program.  It is all about the DRAMA of the Olympics.  I am rooting for Michael Phelps to get 8 gold medals.  The DRAMA of the 4X100 relay the other night was incredible!

    I'm not a gymnastics fan but the DRAMA of the U.S. Men's team trying to gut out a medal after one of their best had to drop out was great theatre.  I once again was hooked all night.

    NBC has two things going for it during these Olympic games.  First, the scheduling of the Phelps' swimming events, the gymnastics etc. live in prime time makes us want to tune in.  The DRAMA would be lost if we had heard, or read that Phelps won a gold medal 6 hours ago.

    Secondly, NBC is doing an excellent job of putting little information nuggets on the screen during prime time – “Michael Phelps goes for gold live in 34 minutes.”  It hooks me to either stick around – or come back in half an hour.

    So, I am confessing that while I told my wife I was not going to watch the Olympics – I am hooked on the DRAMA and in front of the set each night.  At least I am in good company as the same thing is happening all across the land.

    Now – if programmers could only match the same kind of DRAMA outside the Olympics. 


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  • An Historic First – TV Beats Newspapers!

    August 5th, 2008

    VSS, a media private equity company, predicts that by the end of 2008, TV ad revenue will beat newspaper revenue for the first time since record-keeping began in the 18th century.  They say that TV ad revenue, boosted by political races and the Olympics, will reach 51-billion dollars this year.

    Newspaper revenue will sink like a rock to just under 47-billion dollars – that is nearly 5-billion dollars less than last year.  TV ad revenue will be up about 3-billion, according to VSS.

    But this is no time for Broadcasters to be smug about their victory.  Yes, TV ad revenue sprinted past newspapers (which are having an historically horrible year), but that big whale known as the Internet is swimming fast and VSS says will gobble up TV's revenue lead by 2011.

    VSS says by 2011, Internet revenue will spike at 60-billion dollars, while broadcast ad revenue will be just over 51-billion dollars.  Newspapers will continue to lag with about 44-billion in 2011 revenue, according to VSS.

    But there is a silver-lining in the VSS prediction.  They arrive at the 60-billion dollar Internet figure by combining “Pure Play” dollars (revenue earned by Google, Yahoo etc.), and “Traditional” dollars (revenue earned by local TV websites, network sites etc.).  In fact, VSS estimates that “Traditional” Internet ad revenue will be up 28% this year to just over 14-billion dollars.  They say “Pure Play” Internet revenue will grow by a little over 20% to nearly 22-billion dollars.

    AR&D 2.0 strategic gurus Terry Heaton and Steve Safran have been pushing a “Multi-Path” strategy for the past several years to help local television stations grab both “Pure Play” and “Traditional” revenue.  If your station is not heading down those twin paths you need call Terry or Steve today.

    The big bright light coming at you is the Internet – don't let the “Pure Plays” run you over!


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