Local News:                                     Cleaning Up Your Digital Act

 

June 9, 2019

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Every television station wants a large digital footprint.  There are certainly plenty of reasons why being a digital leader makes sense. Today, people are exposed to your news via push notifications, social media, and streaming video. In the long run, as services like Roku grow and cord cutting continues, more people will consume your news from a video stream than from cable, satellite, or over-the-air. Now is the time to work on cleaning up your digital efforts.

·       The 11:00 PM newscast should start streaming at 11:00 PM. In the last week, I have seen streaming newscasts start late and, in one case, a station just forgot to stream the Late News. If you start the newscast late and the viewers do not get the first couple stories, why should they watch?

·       Many stations show the number of viewers who are watching their stream. The numbers are quite low. Your sales department should be trying to sell your digital product. What advertiser wants to pay for under 90 viewers?

·       Because most stations do a poor job of selling streaming newscasts, the commercial breaks are annoying. Who wants to see the same commercial 10 or more times in 30 minutes? Furthermore, several studies have indicated that when a viewer sees a commercial too often, they begin to dislike the product. You are not doing your advertisers any favors by playing their spot repeatedly.

·       When it comes to breaking news, you must have a digital first mentality. Disseminate information and then video as soon as you can. A tweet or push notification can usually be done faster than you can organize an on-air cut-in. Remember, a lot of digital consumers follow multiple stations in a market. If you are consistently second or third, it sends the wrong message. If you are wrong, the message is even worse.

·       Sell special streaming coverage. If you are streaming a trial or a City Council meeting about raising taxes, don’t forget you can monetize a pre-roll or a split screen of an advertiser’s logo and the stream. Many advertisers are looking for this kind of “video connection”. If you don’t believe me, watch how many split screen commercials there are during major sporting events.

·       Many stations fail to capitalize on push notifications and social media during the Morning News. News consumers are looking for Weather and Traffic. Make sure you provide it. If there is a traffic jam, give the digital consumer an alternate route.

·       Make sure your staff knows what to post and tweet. The digital material that you use defines your brand. I follow one station that posts everything. When you post hard news and a lot of videos of pets doing cute tricks, the digital user has a hard time defining who and what you are.

Digital is a powerful tool. Use it wisely. News, Engineering, and Sales need to make your digital effort look as professional as your linear product. When it does, you will win the digital consumers.

 

very television station wants a large digital footprint.  There are certainly plenty of reasons why being a digital leader makes sense. Today, people are exposed to your news via push notifications, social media, and streaming video. In the long run, as services like Roku grow and cord cutting continues, more people will consume your news from a video stream than from cable, satellite, or over-the-air. Now is the time to work on cleaning up your digital efforts.

·       The 11:00 PM newscast should start streaming at 11:00 PM. In the last week, I have seen streaming newscasts start late and, in one case, a station just forgot to stream the Late News. If you start the newscast late and the viewers do not get the first couple stories, why should they watch?

·       Many stations show the number of viewers who are watching their stream. The numbers are quite low. Your sales department should be trying to sell your digital product. What advertiser wants to pay for under 90 viewers?

·       Because most stations do a poor job of selling streaming newscasts, the commercial breaks are annoying. Who wants to see the same commercial 10 or more times in 30 minutes? Furthermore, several studies have indicated that when a viewer sees a commercial too often, they begin to dislike the product. You are not doing your advertisers any favors by playing their spot repeatedly.

·       When it comes to breaking news, you must have a digital first mentality. Disseminate information and then video as soon as you can. A tweet or push notification can usually be done faster than you can organize an on-air cut-in. Remember, a lot of digital consumers follow multiple stations in a market. If you are consistently second or third, it sends the wrong message. If you are wrong, the message is even worse.

·       Sell special streaming coverage. If you are streaming a trial or a City Council meeting about raising taxes, don’t forget you can monetize a pre-roll or a split screen of an advertiser’s logo and the stream. Many advertisers are looking for this kind of “video connection”. If you don’t believe me, watch how many split screen commercials there are during major sporting events.

·       Many stations fail to capitalize on push notifications and social media during the Morning News. News consumers are looking for Weather and Traffic. Make sure you provide it. If there is a traffic jam, give the digital consumer an alternate route.

·       Make sure your staff knows what to post and tweet. The digital material that you use defines your brand. I follow one station that posts everything. When you post hard news and a lot of videos of pets doing cute tricks, the digital user has a hard time defining who and what you are.

Digital is a powerful tool. Use it wisely. News, Engineering, and Sales need to make your digital effort look as professional as your linear product. When it does, you will win the digital consumers.

 

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Sweeps, Lies &        Local News

May 3, 2019

GC Media has been monitoring several stations in April and May. Guess what? All the stations are producing better newscasts during the May book than prior to this Sweep. While everyone should be happy that the product is now better, that will not change many viewer’s loyalty or the number of times they watch in a week. Brands fail when they are not consistently delivered.

What would your reaction be if you went to a McDonalds and were told you could not get their special sauce because it was not a month that they cared about their customers? Many news organizations operate just that way. They fail to serve their customers 52 weeks a year. When they follow this erratic pattern, viewers have no idea what to expect from them. As a result, those stations do not increase their loyal viewer base and they never become dominant.

The truth is that every newscast must be produced like it is the most important news program of the year. That means:

·       Anchors, including substitutes, must be on their game.

·       Producers must strive to create a memorable viewer experience.

·       Original content is generated for every newscast.

·       Reporters go beyond gathering facts and tell emotionally-connected stories.

·       Writing is clear and concise.

·       Posts and tweets are interesting, and entice people to watch or, at least, interact with the station.

AND, ALL OF THIS HAPPENS 365 DAYS A YEAR.

This requires a station to build a culture. When that culture is engrained in every staff member’s mind, you will have a dominant news organization.

As David Ogilvy said, “Don't bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” I will add, “Do it every day.” 

 

 

 

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TV News: A Guide to      Exploiting Socail Media

March 21, 2019

Many television newsrooms don’t fully grasp how social media can be exploited. If done correctly, you can connect more people with more relevant content than you have thought possible.

Let’s begin with Twitter. Your staff should be checking it often. Twitter provides insights into what users are discussing AND what angles of potential stories interest them most. It is a good source for a story or an approach that may not have crossed your mind. It helps to have a lot of people you follow.

Many public information officers tweet important announcements. Make sure your staff is following every PIO from City Hall, Law Enforcement (Federal and Local) and, First Responders. Often important information is released on Twitter before it appears anywhere else.

If you want a Twitter user to watch your newscast, then what you tweet must be compelling. Just like on-air teases, tweets are a double-edged sword. Many people are looking for an excuse NOT to watch a local newscast. An uninspired tweet does more harm than good.

Don’t forget commuters. Traffic and Weather tweets let people know how to dress for the day, and what routes to avoid on their way to and from work. In the morning, Traffic and Weathercasters have time between their segments to send a tweet. If you consistently save me time on my commute, I begin to appreciate the information, and become more likely to tune in your newscast.

Facebook is a more personal platform. It allows on-air talent to establish a friendship with potential TV viewers. But most Facebook posts are little more than a “watch my story” at 5:00 PM or whenever. That is not how to make a friend. People are interested in getting to know the talent as real people. Posts about what you did over the weekend, the traffic jam you were caught in, or even a photo of a rainbow or an anchor’s pet work better.

Facebook is also a great platform for streaming video. It allows you to provide video of breaking news without interrupting programming. A car chase in Los Angeles is a good example. The police pursuit may not be important enough to broadcast. However, on Facebook, it will get significant views. Events like car chases can and should be monetized. Facebook also works for meetings that are significant to a part of your DMA. A heated school board meeting in one community may warrant a short story in your newscast. But for the parents in that community unable to attend, you can stream the entire meeting. Those parents will want to know more than the twenty seconds you can give the story on air.

It is the News Director’s job to guide the team, and insure the staff is taking full advantage of social media. Successful news operations know what works, and operate as one team.

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How to Build a News Brand            and Win!

02-03-2019 01:56 PM

Want to win news? Build a real brand!

News Departments rarely see changes in their relative position in a market. Oh, they may win a time period or even a book, but few stations win across the board and continue to do so for at least a year. Nevertheless, stations keep trying the same things. They may work on updating or creating a sense of urgency. Or, they may make an anchor change. At the end of the day, none of these things move ratings.

Most broadcasters fail to comprehend what successful brands in other categories have known for years. To break through you must be different than your competition and that difference must be relevant to the viewers regardless of the platform.

Rather than make improvements to the product, it helps to begin by deciding what position the news product should occupy. It must fill a void in the market. That void may not be obvious. The position should project a real sense that you do something that the competition does not and cannot do. For example, most newscasts are fronted by readers. If you are lucky enough to have anchors with honed reporting skills, get them out of the studio and have them start covering the news. Make sure they are seen by the viewers as working journalists.

Build this into a position statement, which is the instruction manual for what your station does that is unique and relevant. The position statement might read, “Channel WXXX knows and conveys the news more insightfully than anyone else because its anchors are constantly on the scene covering it.” They are eyewitnesses to events that other anchors are not. Soon, your anchors will start getting phone calls and messages from newsmakers from every level. And the depth of the information you can provide expands exponentially. This is an extremely marketable position. There are dozens of others, just waiting to be implemented.

But remember, this starts with deciding what you will be, not by randomly improving elements of an existing product.

Why don’t stations adopt this method and build a differentiated brand? Put simply, it is not the way managers think. Most newsroom leaders are driven by traditional research. For example, your research indicates that you are weak at consumer reporting. So, that’s where the focus goes. Let’s assume you successfully address the issue. All that does is get you parity. It does not move ratings ahead. No one is going to switch station loyalty because your work in the consumer area is better that the competitions’. Consumer reporting is only one of many reasons that people have selected a newscast. What is needed is an entire approach that is different and more relevant. You also need a different kind of research that explores viewers’ core emotional values to reveal that position.

Until you fully endorse this view, you will be frustrated trying the same techniques over and over again, and ending up with the same results. In the long run, building a brand is less expensive and a lot more effective.

 

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What Porsche and TV News Should Have in Common

January 18,2019

Most stations that try to move ratings spend a considerable amount of money and fail. The reason that they fail is they incorrectly think that a better product should have a better return. The problem is, “Who determines what is better?” And what does “better” even mean? In a nutshell, better should mean different and more relevant. Great brand managers understand this. Let’s use an analogy. Porsche sales were up over 3% in 2018. That increase did not come because the company produced a better/faster 911. It came because it sold more Macans (the smaller SUV). Make no mistake, the Macan is different than a Lexus or a Jeep. Its key difference is that it drives like a sports car. Plus, it also goes in the snow and is still big enough to bring home a ton of groceries. Its sports car roots have an emotional appeal and its size makes it practical. Porsche had a hit because it knew the emotional mindset of its buyer.

Back to television news. How many managers actually know the emotional mindset of the viewers? How many know the viewers’ core values? When you find out, you are then on your way to building a differentiated and relevant newscast that resonates on an emotional level with the viewers. But, an industry, we don’t do this. Instead, we focus on what station does the best job covering crime. We should ask whether the viewers feel personally safe. If they do, there are a lot of crime blotter stories that are wasting the viewers’ time.

I am not suggesting that we should abandon efforts to constantly improve the news product. Nor should we tolerate bad writing and mediocre story telling. Just realize that only doing those things will get you nowhere fast. Ask whether you can define the relevant difference in your news in a short phrase or word. The best branded group of stations are currently owned by COX. The word they own is “coverage”. It is a great word to own if you are in the news business. It’s like owning the word “fast” if you own a chain of fast food restaurants.

 

 

 

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The Real Battle for Viewers

 

 

 

October 19, 2018

 

The typical third or fourth place station that does news will remain close to the bottom for years. The second place station will stay in second place, and the market leader will continue to lead. You might be inclined to say, “But, I won the late news in July and that was a first.” It was probably also a fluke. When you move up in every news time period and hold the gains for three consecutive major books then you have defied the odds. If you are skeptical, read the numbers from all of the LPM markets for the last five years. There are no exceptions.

 

The industry keeps coming up with all kinds of clever ways to change this pattern. Most are simply doing things that the viewers expect anyhow. The newest trend is to get original content into the late news. From the viewers’ standpoint it is a great idea. The bad news is that it is not difficult to copy.

 

Brands Work!

The only thing that will move numbers is a relevant and differentiated brand.

Without a powerful brand, your news is simply a commodity like wheat or pork bellies. The only difference is investors spend money to trade commodities. People spend their time to watch a TV newscast or watch/read information on some app.

 

Most local television management is clueless when it comes to building emotionally connected brands. Don’t feel badly. I was too, until I spent three years studying how categories like automotive, fast food, and cpg build powerful brands.

 

In each case, a successful brand starts with the product. In automotive let’s take BMW and Lexus. BMWs handle well and are generally quick. They have somewhat of a rough ride that lets you feel the road. It is a driver’s luxury car. Lexus is well made, uniquely designed, and is smooth riding. In a word, BMW is “driving” and Lexus is “comfort”. Both have their place.

 

Let’s move on to watches. What is the difference between an Apple watch and a Rolex, other than the cost? Apple’s watch serves a lot more purposes than simply telling the time. It is also a phone and heart monitor, among other things. Apple builds a watch for active people and conveys that image. Rolex tells the time, and it is debatable how well it does that. So while Apple sells “cool”, Rolex sells “prestige.”

 

What does your news product convey? What makes it different? Hint, it is not a tagline. Building a winning brand is a process. First, you must identify the core values that are held by people in your DMA. Each market is unique. GC Media specializes in helping its clients build powerful and emotionally connected brands. Contact us at info@gcamedia.com.

 

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Managing Brands

and Millenials

October 4, 2018

Brand Management and Millennials

Successful news operations all have powerful, emotionally connected brands. A real brand is based on something that is relevant and differentiates you from the competition. Managing the brand requires that everyone who affects the brand is on the same page.

Enter the millennials. They were born between 1977 and 1995, and are also known as Generation Y.  There are a lot of misconceptions about this group. While every generation is different, according to both a Harvard study and a study done by CNBC, millennials aren’t as different as some would like us to believe. Furthermore, members of Generation Y, just like every other generation, are individuals. They have not morphed into some strange Star Trek-like “collective”.

Here are some things we do know:

  1. Millennials want to know, “What is in it for me?” Personally, I don’t know of a lot of people of any group who do not want to know how they benefit.
  2. Members of Generation Y want to contribute to something that is meaningful. That may be true, but it is not limited to millennials. Basically, there are two kinds of people in the workforce. Those who are working JUST for a paycheck. And, those who are working to contribute AND receive compensation. The former is a much harder group to motivate.
  3. Millennials want to be heard. Who doesn’t? Furthermore, as a manager, you have no idea where the next good idea will come from. So take time to listen. The feedback could be invaluable.
  4. Focused on social issues, from the environment to neighborhoods, this group should be able to provide you with a myriad of original content ideas. Don’t forget to exploit them.
  5. The time that millennials spend with social media is considerable. Over 80% say they get their news from Facebook. So, as you tackle social media and push notifications, turn to the Generation Y experts.
  6. On the social front, millennials tend to travel in packs. If one finds a new restaurant, expect 5 or 6 more to show up the next time. The same is true with television viewing. In the workplace, if you can convince one member of Generation Y to become a brand champion, you will have convinced some of his or her friends.

 

The bottom line is that if you manage everyone like millennials, you will have a more effective workforce that is all working to build your brand.

 

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Driving TV NewsRatings :

Breakdown to Breakthrough!

August 26, 2018

Pretend you are driving a late model car. It is made by Local News Manufacturing. You were in the fast lane. And now, the car keeps breaking down. Logic would say it needs some work.  The issue is local news needs a big rebuild. Ratings are shrinking and margins are slowly evaporating, all because viewers are not watching.

Now there are many sources for news. They are accessible at the viewers' discretion on multiple devices, but that's not the issue. The problem is our industry comes up with a myriad of excuses for not doing what needs to be done. And what is needed is original reporting. Since leadership starts at the top, that is where the change must begin.

I have heard many excuses for the industry’s failures.

  • There is a resource shortage. We can’t afford to hire more people. So, we will just rehash the same old news. Experience tells me that most managers at every level do not even know how resources are being used, or the real keys to greater productivity.

 

ü  How many managers have done productivity studies? When I first got to WABC, crews were producing about 1.4 stories in a shift. That was, and still is, unacceptable. One year later, that number was 2.57. The average reporter turned two packages. It is important to note that no one was asked to work harder. They just started working smarter. A lot of that came from how the Managing Editor juggled crews and workloads.

ü  If you want to attain greater output, do a similar study, and then TALK TO THE PEOLE DOING THE WORK. They don’t sit in an office. They have real hands-on experience.

 

  • Then there is the excuse that, even at maximum efficiency, our people can only do so much. I agree. But rather than have them repackage stale stories, insist that they do new and original reports. The viewers already know the news before they get to a newscast. So why wouldn’t you report on something they have not seen? The best part is the bean counters will not notice one dime in cost increases.
  • Then there is my favorite line, “We’re doing okay.” Unless you dominate the market, you are an underperformer. Period! There is always room for growth, and unless you are moving forward, you are going backwards. Last week CNBC said that the average Fortune 500 CEO only lasts 5 years. Why? They are not driving the price of the company’s stock. We must drive ratings in today’s challenging market.

The reality is that great growth in linear TV is possible. However, we must start thinking differently. That will require all of us to take well-calculated risks. No risk….no reward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Move Forward and Prosper

Stay Stuck and Pay the Price 

August 12, 2018

 

My last several blogs explained the need for original stories in every newscast. That was confirmed again, in a series of focus groups I moderated two weeks ago. Each member of the group said they already knew all of the headlines before news time. That often led to a decision NOT to watch. I wanted to know what would encourage them to view a linear newscast. The vast majority said they wanted in-depth reports. Human interest stories were a distant second. As an industry, we have known this for years, but done nothing.

 

The client believed that creating a significant amount of original content would be easy. I kept thinking, “If it were that easy, why you haven’t done it?”

 

Think about it. There is no incremental cost. Reporters just need to cover stories that are not predictable. They do NOT need to cover MORE stories. They need to develop a knack for producing ENGAGING stories. Sounds easy, right?

 

But, obstacles abound:

  • Leaders have to lead. Enterprise reporting requires a 100% commitment from the top.
  • To go from covering the day’s police blotter and media release news to enterprise journalism requires a culture shift in the newsroom. Leaders should recognize:

*      If you change what your staff knows, you will change how they think.

*      If you change how they think, you will change how they act.

*      If you change how they act, you will change the culture.

 

  • Does your team really understand what is happening to the linear TV’s bottom line? How many of them really think their salaries may fall because of declining sales revenue? Have you done your part to make sure they know today’s reality?   Change the culture, and then work on your style of original reporting.
  • Here are some examples:

*      Forget details of President Trump’s tariff war with China. Start where the viewers start. What does the tariff mean to me? Do the viewers face higher prices, or better job opportunities in their communities? Oh, and by the way, what is going to happen to all of the tariffs we collect? The President has called for a wall on our southern border. He claims the wall will be quite nice. Are the tariffs paying for the wall, or are the potholes on my city’s streets getting fixed? We, local as journalists, can provide LOCAL answers.

*      Let’s stay on potholes. What does it takes to fix a mile’s worth of road in Cleveland versus Detroit versus Pittsburgh? What is the reason for any difference?

*      Back to the wall and illegal border crossings: Mexicans are going to Canada, but the US is short staffed on its northern border. That means that illegals are also coming in. What is the impact on border cities like Buffalo and Detroit? Spend some time with ICE, and find out who is crossing the northern border illegally.

*      I recently heard an Air Force General on the west coast say that half of his F-16s would not fly, because of a lack of parts. It got me thinking about how many of the mechanics at the Air Force reserve base near Buffalo don’t have much to do.

 

The point of all of this is you must get people think about how to create original reports. It is the only way you will bring people back to local news. The alternative is not pretty,

 

 

e rest of the content goes here.

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How to Overlook Television's

Best Candidates

July 29, 2018

The last brainless HR idea on our list is the idea that you can hire great people by treating them like dirt, subjecting them to insulting online application forms and then using a keyword-searching algorithm to screen resumes for you. Employers who can’t evolve beyond Applicant Tracking Systems and keyword-based resume screening will lose out on the best talent — just as the laws of supply and demand predict.

It’s a new day in the workplace. Smart and capable people are in demand, but only if they know their own value!

                                                                                                -Liz Ryan, Forbes

 

In my opinion, internal media recruiters have an impossible job. They are hampered by key word searches and time. Most recruiters spend 6 seconds with a resume. Many never even read your cover letter. Most have never been in a position that was remotely similar to the one they must fill and, for the most part, they are underpaid. The result is that many times the best candidates are never seen by the hiring manager.

 

Wow! That would work really well in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. You would end with a college-like team that could write, but not play in the pros.

 

Think about it for a moment. The best candidates have unusual traits that don’t conform to norms. Let me give you an example: Many years ago when I was News Director at WABC, Channel 7 was never beaten on breaking news. I take no credit for that. The people who were responsible were there before I was. The assignment desk dispatched a crew based on a tip, or on what was heard on the police scanners. This was done BEFORE anyone called to verify that what they heard on the scanner was true. In several instances, our crew arrived at an active scene before the police or fire department. Sometimes that gamble cost us a good story, because the crew was reassigned to what turned out to be a non-story. However, most of the time we were live a good 15 minutes before our competitors. That is called risk taking, and it takes guts. The biggest gamble I saw anyone take is when the Senior Executive Producer heard on a scanner that a train failed to stop and crashed into the terminal at Penn Station. He calmly got on the radio, and pulled every crew from its story, and headed all 14 of them in live vans towards Penn Station. As minutes ticked by, he started redirecting some crews to hospitals, and others to where we knew that traffic would come to a halt. The time was 3:30 PM. The crews that had been reassigned were working on stories for the station’s 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM newscasts. I asked our Executive Producer how he intended to fill two hours if the initial police radio transmission turned out to be wrong. He replied, “I will figure it out.” That is called confidence, and I had complete confidence in my team. They were the best. As it turned out, a train had crashed. There were multiple fatalities. ABC7 was live from 3 locations for 30 minutes before anyone else got its first live report.

 

Fast forward to today. If you were that Senior Executive Producer, how would you write your resume? Would you say, “I am a risk taker, who makes split second decisions based on few facts, and I’m right 99% of the time.”? While it may be true, it does not sound credible. It also sounds arrogant.

 

In my opinion, the key word searches should end immediately. And, our industry needs more recruiters who have real world experience and are better paid. Or, we should eliminate recruiters all together. Nexstar apparently agrees. It eliminated its HR department. My guess is that it was a budget cutting move. Nevertheless, Nexstar has hired some strong GMs. There is a reason that TV stations have many average managers, and few management stars. Good decision making and cultures start at the top. They are not led by HR or recruiters.

 

 

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