Time to Stop Serving Up News in the Same Old Way

ScreenHunter_551 Feb. 02, 2015 08.58By John Altenbern, President

How do you like your burgers?  Chances are your answer isn’t “Like McDonald’s makes them.”   Last week’s news had two burger stories that speak volumes about local news, too.  First, the CEO of McDonald’s got himself “McFired” for slipping sales and lack of innovation.  Second, Shake Shack had a huge public stock offering, instantly making the little chain a $1.6  billion business.  It’s not that Americans don’t like burgers, but we seem to have fallen out of love with traditional fast food.  We want Five Guys, Smashburgers and Shake Shack.

 To me it sounds a little like what is going on in local television stations.  While we still serve a lot of “fast news” to hungry consumers, other more interesting options are popping up all over.  And like McDonalds, TV newsrooms are having a hard time adjusting to new realities.  NPR covered the burger story, and this quote caught my eye:  “Part of the reason that there hasn’t been more innovation there (fast food) is because the supply chain is built around heavily processed frozen food product, and so to change the product offering, you’d have to re-engineer everything from the supply chain to the kitchen layouts to the training systems and more.”  Sound familiar?  Our packages, voiceovers and live shots are just like that “heavily processed fast food.”

Despite mantras like “digital first” and new social media efforts, too many TV newsrooms are hooked on making burgers and fries (substitute today’s events and weather forecasts). Research clearly shows that audiences are busy finding alternative news sources and consuming content from upstarts.  Viewer tastes are changing.  Yes, local television still has big audiences.  And McDonalds still sells a lot of burgers.  But not as many customers are stopping by – particularly those under the age of 40.  Until television news changes the menu – and all the processes behind it – the trend is going to continue.

Let’s not wait until everyone gets “McFired” to do something about it.

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