July 29th, 2009
Local TV news is enamored with Twitter right now. That’s good – but – are you missing an even bigger way to connect with your viewers? Are you interacting with your viewers by texting? My informal research shows few local TV news station are using this very popular social media tool in an aggressive manner. Sure – your station may have people sign up for weather and news alert texts – but what about daily conversations? What about an interactive relationship?
Check out the numbers. Pew research shows about 11% of American adults use Twitter. That number is around 20% for those aged 18-to-34. But only 10% of those aged 35-44 use Twitter, and the number falls to 5% for those 45-to-54-year-olds.
An Online Harris Poll shows less than 5% of the American population has used Twitter. A Harvard Business School study projected that most Twitter users send one Tweet in their lifetime!
Compare those numbers to Text messaging. Nielsen Mobile research shows that 18-to-24-year-olds text an average of 790 messages a month – compared to making 265 phone calls on their cell phone. Nielsen says the numbers for everyone who owns a cell phone – covering young people to the older crowd – show that they send 357 text messages a month compared to making 204 cell phone calls. Those are huge numbers.
So my message is this – make a big push to begin a texting relationship with your viewers that goes beyond the occasional news or severe weather alert. Your reporters and producers should be sending out short – very short – one or two sentences at the most – updates to viewers throughout the day. You get them to opt in to this service – the same way that you got them to sign up for the news and weather alerts.
This texting relationship will also turn into a two-way communication as your viewers begin to let you know about traffic delays, breaking news etc. Yes, it may be a little more difficult to set-up than Twitter – but it is a “target rich” environment. It is a segment of social media that you cannot afford to ignore.
July 15th, 2009
Viewers keep complaining that late newscasts are filled with too much repetition. In fact, repetition is their #1 complaint about all television newscasts. It is especially important in your late newscasts – a place where viewers want to be updated on all the important news of the day in a manner that does not waste their time.
This repitition issue was driven home to me when I recently tackled the task of watching every newscast, on every station in five medium to large markets. By the late newscast I could almost tell you verbatim what the anchor was going to say during the lead-in to the story, if not in the body of the story itself. It seems that cutting and pasting is a new skill for television producers to ply every day.
But repitition from one television newscast to the next is not really the biggest problem these days. Only about half of all viewers watch both an early evening, and late newscast the same day. The repitition issue is huge because most viewers hear about local and national stories on their car radios, from co-workers, by checking the Internet, on their mobile device, by text alerts on their cell phones – the list goes on and on.
So, when they settle down in front of the tube to watch your late newscast they expect – indeed demand – that you update those stories and give them new information that they did not see on the Internet during lunch. But you don’t. They are disappointed every night because there is no real effort to add new information – or to simply write the lead with a “looking ahead” bent to it. And you wonder why TV news viewership is eroding.
Please don’t give me excuses like – “we have reduced staffing,” or “there is really nothing new on that story.” Your once loyal viewers don’t want to hear it – they simply want you ro give them the most updated newscast in the market. Updating is the most important task for your late news producers.
How do you do it? Assign your anchors to make follow-up calls on important stories of the day. It is time they stepped up to the plate. Ask yourself – “what is the most important new thing viewers want to know about this story” – and then answer it in your copy.
The same is true of the beginning of the newscast. How do you grab the viewers who are reaching for the “off” button that you have new, fresh and updated information that is worth an investment of their time? Read your copy – if it does not meet this simple test – re-write it and give it some impact.
It is critical that you ban REPITITION from your newscasts – especially the late newscasts.