Monday, June 22, 2009

How corporate let the fox into the hen house, and continues to feed it chickens

I vividly remember my first corporate "embrace the internet" meeting. The suits were going on and on about how the internet was going to open up new avenues for local stations, how it was going to generate a second source of income. How our new mission in life was to "drive viewers to the internet" as often as possible during a newscast. The techno-geeks in the crowd nodded, the rest of us rolled our eyes.

After the meeting, one of our producers came up to me and said, "So let me get this straight. We're now supposed to tell people to turn off their television sets and turn on their computer? What's that going to do to our ratings?"

Well, you didn't need to be Stephen Hawking to see the writing on the wall. People turned off their sets, went to their computers, and stayed there.

When I was growing up we had this old Italian pastry shop named "Sal's" that everyone in the neighborhood loved. But on the weekends during the summer Sal made this to-die-for lemon ice which turned the place into a hot spot on Sundays.

It was the only place in town to get it, so that's where we went.

Television is no longer the only place in town to get news. So people no longer have to go there.

Imagine if you will that your station decided to shut down it's web site. Well, at least the news portion of it anyway. Just leave the phone numbers and station bios. Then imagine that your anchors stopped saying, "For more on this story, go to" about fifteen times every newscast. Imagine that you don't have to flesh out your story online, that what you see on the tube is all you get.

What would happen? Where would viewers who liked your station get your newscast?

Well, duh, they'd have to turn on the television set.

Here's a wild idea. Let's have all the NDs in one market agree to shut down the news portion of the website. And, what a wild concept, drive the viewers to the TV set. What would happen? Well, viewership would go up.

A viewer missed a story and had to call the station for info? Great! Your station has just made a personal contact, and by helping someone has gained a loyal viewer.

There are those who argue that the internet provides a revenue stream, but people buying internet spots would have bought TV anyway, or are taking money away from the TV side. It's just a shell game.

It's time for corporate suits to realize that technology is not only hurting this business, it's killing it. Time to get back to basics, and make news appointment television.

If that happened your newscast would be just like Sal's lemon ice. If you wanted it, there would be only one place to get it.

1 comment:

Randall said...

Sorry man, but if people were to take your advice, they'd be newspapers in 3 years flat. Someone would do better quality reporting, put it on the web, make it must read, and then people would stop tuning in all together.

TV stations don't have it right, but you've got it wrong.