April 27th, 2009
Like many news directors, KGMB9, Honolulu’s Chris Archer had a dilemma – how to turn fresh content at 5:00 p.m. while not stealing all the good stuff from his 6:00 p.m. newscast. His friendly consultant also brought some ideas on how to get viewers involved in the newscast using all the new social media tools. Chris combined his excellent thinking with that of his very sharp staff to turn those two items into Hawaii’s first Interactive Newscast.
The social media aspect begins early in the day as they ask viewers for input on some hot issues. By mid-afternoon anchor Tannya Joaquin is exchanging Tweets with viewers talking about the upcoming newscast. This is truly point-of-purchase topical marketing.
KGMB’s 5:00 p.m. newscast starts with a triple box showing the top three stories of the day. Tannya talks briefly about the top two boxes, and then the third box becomes the lead story. This is an excellent way to visually draw viewers into the newscast.
The station created a special graphic to cue viewers that they want them to have their say on a story. When the station puts the icon on the screen – they want viewer comments right now – so they can quickly turn them around and put them on the air. Many times they want reaction to the lead story – and they will play the first Tweets and emails right after the first break tease, before the commercial break.
They also sprinkle other comments throughout the newscast. The response has been great – even though they just launched the interactive feature of the newscast a week ago. In fact, there was a minor eathquake on the Big Island and viewers quickly sent Tweets with that informati0n which they used in the weathercast.
KGMB started training viewers (and I believe it is a training process) over a year ago when they formed the KGMB9 Storm Patrol. Weather spotters from all the Hawaiian islands signed up to be on the Storm Patrol and they send pictures everyday of everything from floods and storms, to those postcard-perfect Hawaiian sunsets. The pictures are incorporated into the newscasts and weathercasts to help tell the weather story of the day.
The Storm Patrol has also been a boon to breaking news coverage. Honolul TV stations must fly to outer islands and back for news coverage. Last year, there were big wild fires on Maui. It looked like they were contained by mid-afternoon so all the stations headed back to Oahu. Well, just before the 6 o’clock newscasts – the fires flared up again – and only KGMB had pictures for their lead story - thanks to their Storm Patrol doing double duty covering spot news.
KGMB also has an extremely popular local business and economy guru in Howard Dicus who is a big part of their fast-growing morning newscast. Howard also now makes a live appearance in KGMB’s 5 o’clock newscast via Skype from his home office. Howard and Tannya have a short conversation of all the important business happenings from the day.
You can check out this newscast by going to KGMB9.com. They stream it live every day. The newscast is on the web at 11 p.m. eastern, 8 p.m. left coast time, 10 p.m. central and 9 p.m. mountain. Keep in mind this is only the second week it is on the air, and knowing Chris’ crew they will continue to make it stronger in the weeks ahead by adding other unique ideas.
April 19th, 2009
Here is another blog in a continuing series of some interesting ideas and intel gathered from my travels.
Positive News Desire Continues. I have been writing for months about the need to mix positive/hopeful news with all the tough economic and crime stories in your newscasts. In these difficult times viewers want that kind of balance in their local newscasts. Well, there is more evidence of that desire this week. In Raleigh, GM Barry Leffler always asks for viewer comments at the end of every newscast. One viewer wrote – “We want less media negativity. Negative reporting has a negative impact on viewers and will keep America in a slump.” It should be noted that WNCN always provides the balance of positive stories in their newscasts.
Helping Their Viewers Find Work. Fox11 News in Green Bay has partnered with three regional technology colleges to bring free breakout sessions to help their viewers find work, and reinvent themselves to survive in this economy. These 8 hour breakout sessions will cover everything from an introduction to using a computer, to interviewing skills, to resume tips to marketing strategies for a successful job search and it is all free.
WRAL Programming Live On City Buses. In Raleigh, WRAL is testing a partnership with the city that will bring live programming from the station to city buses. They have been testing mobile DTV transmissions to two receivers and two plasmas as the buses tool around the city. There are also three panels with banner ads. If it works, the station and the city will split the revenue and the station will extend its reach.
Hot Dog Coupons On Your Cell Phone. The Dallas Cowboys are building a new one-billion dollar stadium that is chock full of technology. They even are testing a system that will automatically send a coupon to your cellphone as you walk past a concession stand with the aim of enticing you in. Jerry Jones does not miss a trick to make money!
Stimulating Local Car Dealers. Kudos to the Allbriton folks for offering an incentive to the employees of their 7 television stations to spend money for new and used cars with local automobile advertisers. The station gave each employee $2,000 toward buying a new car, and $1,000 towards a used vehicle. Over 60 employees took part – spending over $660,000 alone in Washington D.C. at local auto advertisers.
How About A Lottery Ticket Instead. Mike Sechrist has always been an inventive guy. So, during his first meeting as GM of his new television station he did not offer any soft drinks. Instead, Mike gave each employee a lottery ticket. He said this seemed like a more practical idea in today’s economy. No word if any employee hit the jackpot.
A Great Reporter Says Goodbye. Finally, I want to offer my best wishes to one of the all-time greatest investigative reporters – and story tellers in the television business. After 32 years at WUSA-TV in Denver, Paula Woodward retired recently. She could have worked in any market, or for any network, but her love of Colorado kept there for three decades. I have always admired Paula’s work, her tenacity, and her fairness and want to wish her well in whatever new adventures lie ahead.
April 13th, 2009
I’ve been known to dabble a little in Texas Hold’Em tournaments, and a comment from professional poker player Annie Duke really hit home with me – and it’s something you need to think about too. Duke said, “In poker tournaments a lot of people play to last, and they almost never win. Others play to win, and while they may have spectaculor crashes sometimes, they also get some spectacular wins.”
Thinking about my own play – which is usually conservative – I do play to last most times, and don’t win as often as I would like – although I usually catch a small part of the payout by making it to the final table. But, the big money usually eludes me because I don’t play to win.
So how does all this affect you? Well, in this difficult economy many media companies – and rightly so – are playing to last. Many stations have been cut to the bone when it comes to personnel. Many managers are struggling to simply put a news product on the air with much, much smaller staffs. They fret about the lack of quality and the potential of driving viewers away. Outside advertising dollars for TV stations are virtually non-existent.
But finally, there seem to be some hopeful signs for the economy. For the first time in this recession, there is talk of optimism that we may have hit bottom. The stock market is showing some life. General managers I talk to say there is a glimmer of some increase in spending by advertisers. The hope is we have begun a slow climb back up the mountain – it is a steep climb – and one most stations are doing with far fewer climbers than they had a year or so ago.
So, now is the time to begin to plan how your station (or group) is going to play to win instead of just playing to last. The strategy, of course, will be totally different than it was just a few years ago. Everyone agrees that we will not return to the “good old days” of broadcasting with huge staffs and large salaries. A new model will emerge from this experience.
AR&D can be your strong partner in this process. In the near future, you will be hearing and reading about a book our strategists have penned that is chockful of advice on re-engineering local television. All modesty aside, there is terrific thinking that went into this book. It is the definitive source on how to move from playing to last to playing to win.
In the meantime, I challenge you to begin the process of taking a hard look at your indidivual station, and to having discussions on how you will change your strategy from playing to last to playing to win.
April 3rd, 2009
Got your attention huh? Well, read on, you may find that this idea has a lot of merit.
The broadcasting depression has caused stations from coast to coast to jettison longtime, very popular anchors – simply because their salaries are out of line with the new business model that faces every TV station in America. Just in the last week, KNBC’s Paul Moyer, WNBC’s Chuck Scarborough, Marty Mathews at WTSP in Tampa, Sports icon Len Berman in New York, Warner Saunders at WMAQ in Chicago, and well-known veteran reporter Roberta Baskin at WJLA in Washington, DC have been shown the door after dozens of years of service at their respective stations.
You may have heard that the depression has also made for big changes in the movie business. Big-time movie stars that commanded $20-to-30 million dollars to ply their trade, are suddenly finding a new paradigm. Movie studios are offering much less upfront money, and instead pinning the total dollars paid to the stars on the amount of money brought in by the movie. If the movie scores big – so do the stars. If the movie bombs – so do the stars’ paychecks.
Now it seems to me that this idea fits well into the new business model for local television newscasts. Pay your anchors a decent – but not over-inflated – salary, and give them a stake in the success of the newscasts where they are the stars. If the newscast scores great ratings – and you are able to sell that program for more money – they share in the success through a bonus program. If they fail to move the ratings needle upward – their pay check doesn’t increase either.
I would assume that the smart anchors would also become much more active in garnering high ratings for their newscasts. Instead of walking in late in the day you would think they would be more involved in planning and writing the newscasts to make them stronger. You would also assume the anchors would be willing to make more public appearances, and perhaps even go on sales calls to help add some star power to the sales effort – and assist in closing the deal.
I’m sure management and anchors have strong opinions on this concept. Let me hear from you.