November 14th, 2009
Back in the dark ages when I was a young reporter in the TV business, there were only two newscasts a day at the station I was working at in Green Bay – a 6 p.m. and a 10 p.m. We would all gather in the conference room to watch the 6 p.m. newscast together. I remember the sinking feeling if my package played – and no one made a comment about it. That meant it had not hit the mark.
But these peer viewing sessions were excellent learning experiences. We would comment on each other’s stories and make suggestions. When the senior reporters had something positive to say about your story – it made you feel great. Unfortunately in these days of multiple evening newscasts, most reporters rarely get to sit down and even watch a newscast. Forget a gathering of reporters to watch and discuss their work together. It just doesn’t happen.
That’s what caused KRQE news director Iain Munro to start a mentoring program for his younger reporters in Albuquerque. I can attest from first hand observation that it works great. He assigns one or more of the senior reporters to take a younger reporter under their wing and work with them on writing, presentation and story telling. In some cases, one reporter works with them on story telling, while another assists in their on air look and camera presence.
Iain says, “The mentor system is taking advantage of the expertise of our senior reporters and makes our younger reporters feel more engaged in our news process. This helps our younger reporters by having a ‘go to’ person throughout the day to give them a concentrated expert to help them complete a story.”
I met with several of the younger reporters during a recent visit to the station and was frankly amazed at the improvement in story telling and their on air presence. They were also very appreciative of the mentoring process. Iain says, “Reporters constantly crave feedback, and now with people being asked do to more, sometimes the first thing to go is critiques. This system gives our people constant updates on elements of their work from writing to voice and appearance.”
Another clever idea was to move the younger reporters from the fringes of the newsroom to desks in the middle of the action, near the producers and anchors. This lets them observe and be plugged into the coverage and presentation discussions being held around them throughout the day. Iain observes, “This really helps our younger reporters develop more quickly, and become more productive news gatherers.”
So, I encourage you to revive the lost art of mentoring at your station. The results will amaze you. I also encourage you to institute the same kind of program for photographers. Drop me an email and let me know how it’s working for you.
November 3rd, 2009
Here is a first for me – I am really impressed with a new product from Nielsen. Usually I am at odds with the ratings service for poor sampling, having a monopoly (with the inherent high prices) – the list goes on. But they are now offering a new service in metered markets that blew me away during a demo last week.
It is called Grabix. Finally local TV stations can make sense of those overnights through this daily minute-by-minute recap of audio and video from all newscasts in the market. The service displays a minute-by-minute ratings graph across the top of the page with video of all newscasts stacked below that with graphs that show where viewers are going and coming from. So, instead of guessing why you lost viewers at 6:21 p.m. you can see what your newscast and the competition were doing at that very minute.
It also has a nifty feature that allows you to quickly email a clip to anyone. For instance, let’s say you have been telling your anchors to keep their chit-chat quick and focused during the morning newscasts. You go on Grabix and see an exchange that goes too long, and causes meter tune-out. With one click you can email not only the video clip, but the meter graphic to those anchors for instant feedback.
You get the video clips and minute-by-minute information the next day, and on the second day you get additional charts showing where the gains and losses where during each minute as well as closed-captioning of all the newscasts. The closed-captioning feature opens up a number of other options with Grabix.
With the closed captioning you can do an amazing word search. Let’s say, for instance, you want to see how quickly the news audience lost interest in the Balloon Boy story. You search the key word – Balloon Boy – and quickly get a list of all mentions of those two words in your newscasts over the past 3-to-7 days. You can scroll down the page and not only see what the copy said, but also the household ratings while the story was on your air on that day as well as seeing the video seven minutes on either side of that particular slice of copy. The page is filled with your copy on the Balloon Boy with the date and time each reference was made. It is a great tool.
This instant side-by-side comparison of your newscasts and the competition is a powerful weapon. The best part is your staff can be trained and explore Grabix in a myriad of ways without asking NSI to run some special ratings info that usually comes back with graphics that are difficult – if not impossible – to easily analyze.
I have just touched on what I think are the best parts of this new service. Here is the list of possibilities from Nielsen’s Grabix web site:
- See which elements of your news are attracting viewers or losing them
- Determine what type of audience your lead-in program delivered
- Assess your audience’s reaction to topics, guests and break-aways
- Schedule breaks and teasers for optimal results
- Compare how other stations are covering news stories in your market
- Compare your program content and audience delivery with your competition
- Search for and retrieve news clips with ratings
- Analyze audience movement more easily
- Evaluate on-air talent in your market
- Document success, proving your news was first with the story
Now, while many of those items may be possible, I do need to add some caution here. Just as you have to guess what might have caused a tune-out during the old minute-by-minute breakouts – Grabix also requires some interpetation. Yes, you did drop at a certain point, and you can see what was on your air versus what the competition was airing at the same time – but did your rating drop because of the content, the anchor, the story telling? Even with this improved service there remains some guess work. That’s why we believe it is a service that should augment your AR&D research and partnership with your strategist. Strategy will be set based on the opportunities seen in the research – and Grabix can help us make decisions on whether it is working – based on many factors.
With that caution – it is a very cool new idea.