Attract Viewers with Content, Not Contests

By Steve Schwaid, VP Digital Strategies

ScreenHunter_622 May. 05, 2015 01.18Watch our morning news and you could win a trip to England.

Watch our 6 pm news and you could win a cruise.

Watch our 11/10 pm news and you could win a mortgage or a $1,000 a week.

Topicals have now been replaced with spots that remind me of car sales folks. Come in, test drive our new car and you could win…

What’s wrong with this picture? What’s missing from this picture?

One thing: content.

Sure, we can tempt folks to watch a show for a cash or prize incentive, but long term where does it get us?  If stations are only focused on three months of the year, it will build no loyalty. My father used to call me and ask is it a ratings period? I said, “Yes, how did you know?” His reply, “All of the commercials for prizes and give-aways.”

Again, I ask, where does this get us?

Nowhere.

In this very scary time for local news of viewer fragmentation, DVRs, and internet content consumption, stations are resorting to whatever they can to get viewers in the tent during ratings. But that doesn’t build viewing habits.  At the end of the day, people want news about where they live. They want investigations. They want weather folks who can drill down and give hyper-local weather content with micro forecasts for viewers’ communities and neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, many stations no longer sell content. Instead, they try to reward viewers with prizes. And the content they do deliver isn’t meaningful to viewers. As long as stations focus on cheap breaking news – car accidents, house fires and stories that lack relevance – viewers will search other places for news relevant to their lives. Where are the ground breaking investigations? Where are the stories that took a little in-depth reporting and didn’t rely on the group press conference? Where are the stories about people?

The stations that promote and deliver those kinds of stories will be much more likely to build an audience and survive.

It bothers me that so many stations offer only a trip, shopping spree or $1,000 as a reason to watch. Why? Because it shows that local news doesn’t have the confidence and conviction to focus on what viewers tell us they want: stories that impact their lives. That’s the ticket to success.

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