Rethinking Outside Media

As you and your team start thinking about your late fall and November media plans, we suggest you question the traditional path you’ve probably taken in the past and make more room for digital options.

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Where are you spending your outside media money?  Chances are the typical places – radio and even possibly newspaper. Usually the issue is the co-op dollars. The syndicators want radio and the only way they’ll do a co-op split is if you also do radio and maybe some print.

Using radio to promote a sweeps story, especially a sweeps story that is running in the late news, is inefficient.  Who can remember something they heard an hour ago, much less five hours ago? To expect late news viewers to not only remember, but then make the effort to switch channels, isn’t practical.   And newspapers? Well, let’s just say we assume you want to reach people younger than 45.

Maybe you need to make some of your outside media buys digitally focused. Take a look at the latest Comscore numbers measuring mobile app usage.

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Are you buying Facebook? If not, why not? You can target by demo, geography, sex and a variety of other filters. We know users are on Facebook second screening during prime time. You have their eyes; now the sponsored and station posts in their newsfeeds need to just capture their hearts and minds.

For radio, have you looked at Pandora? It’s a perfect way to find the younger demo that may not be engaged in your product.

No, we don’t get a cut from these guys. But it’s just common sense.  And another great thing about digital is that you can measure consumption and target your viewers.

We’re getting close to that digital tipping point. We know from research that the 25-34 demo is just about there – relying on their devices more than your broadcasts. The usage of Facebook by all demos is staggering. Here’s the link to download the full report.

Sure, you may have to make the syndicators happy and participate in the co-op for Judge Judy, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, etc.  But we suggest shifting a little money into the digital space and take the lead in attracting new eyeballs. Maybe you’ll teach the syndicators a thing or two.

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Rise Above the Fray with Election Coverage

By Steve Schwaid, VP of Digital StrategiesiStock_000005601645Small

We’re coming up on one of the more important mid-term elections we have seen in recent years. Couple this with declining newspaper readership, an increase in partisan driven websites and battles on social media over policies and candidates, and it means there is an opportunity for local newsrooms to rise above the fray.

Now is the time for local TV newsrooms to dedicate some resources to helping viewers understand the issues and examine what the candidates are saying and hold them accountable – no matter what party, no matter what view.

Viewers are increasingly questioning the relevance of local news. This is a good opportunity to show them it is.

To stand out, offer something exclusive.  Go in-depth on a series of issues. Examine where tax dollars are being spent and how much taxes would need to increase to accomplish campaign promises. Or, provide exclusive local data on voter opinions.  CJ&N can provide quick, low-cost customized polling on local issues that will provide valuable unique content for every platform as well as opportunities for publicity.

Here are a few more things to consider:

– Create a LOCAL political section on your website with a page for each local race and issue. (This could also be a revenue generator for sales.)

– Post/link to the candidate’s website and platform.

– Have each candidate write for you a paragraph or two on the issues. Try to get them to avoid the classic candidate blah-blah and get to specifics.

– Create an online chat with the candidates – not a debate but more of a conversation – and use this online and promote on-air. Don’t do this from a studio; use a more informal setting.  It doesn’t have to be a multi-camera shoot. One camera shot in a coffee shop will make it feel much more authentic.

Right now it’s all about the clarity of the facts, the issues and the platforms. Viewers and users want to know specifically what a candidate will do. If this candidate is going for re-election, pull out video from the last campaign and see how well the candidate met the promises they made.

This is an important time for local TV with local candidates. You’re NOT a partisan cable channel and that is something that’s promotable – being a truly unbiased, balanced local source of information. Be the advocate to help users and viewers understand the facts, specifics of what a candidate stands for and what they plan to do if they get elected.

For more information on polling, contact Mary Beth Marks, Ph.D., Vice President of Research at mbmarks@cjni.com.

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Get Used to Thinking Bigger

By John Altenbern, President

ScreenHunter_415 Jul. 24, 2014 01.33I don’t know about your summer, but mine includes watching shows on DVR and, on weekends, the occasional “binge-viewing” of a cable series or Netflix show.  I’m not alone. This week several network research gurus pooled their knowledge about how viewers are watching television this year.  It’s an eye-opener if you haven’t seen the data.  http://qz.com/237600/charts-how-we-watch-tv-now/

For those of us in the game of getting audiences to watch live local newscasts, what does it mean?  For starters we better get used to some bigger thinking.  The competition isn’t simply the programming airing live in the same time slot.  And it’s certainly not just about the competing newscasts across town and who shot the extra voiceover today. It is for viewers’ limited time and attention.  Many of those viewers have a DVR full of programming they’d like to see.  Audiences have choice and control like never before.

Almost always, the single best source of audience for a newscast comes from the lead-in program.  When viewers are on our air prior to a live newscast we better be talking to them about something that matters.  Are we giving them compelling reasons to watch the next newscast, or is it only a promise of a fire or robbery and tomorrow morning’s forecast (which I just saw on my phone, thank you).   Is content tailored for those demographics and is it promoted to them?   Are we trying to spread our messages beyond our own air?  Are we engaging online and on social, or buying outside media?   Or are we just casting out the usual generic news and hoping the audience sticks around out of some sense of duty or fading habit?

We must focus on content that is so interesting, and promoted so well, that viewers will put off watching Hulu or Netflix and choose to watch a live newscast.  We’re not just battling for brand loyalty anymore – we have to create a viewing experience that competes with the best on TV.  As you watch your newscast tonight, ask yourself how it stacks up with the latest episode of 24 or House of Cards.  That’s the competition. 

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A Dose of Reality and a Call to Action

iStock_000009526661SmallBy Steve Schwaid, VP of Digital Strategies

Sometimes a dose of reality can be pretty sobering, and scary. We’ve all heard about the cord cutters in the trades, but you don’t often get a sense of how real it is.

I’m in the OLDER demo. I must have my cable channels along with my Netflix. I don’t have Hulu plus, and while I do have Amazon Prime, I’m not wowed with their video selection. Yes I have my Apple TV, my ipad and my smartphone and I often three-screen in the evening.

I was recently visiting a client station, meeting with about 20 producers, managers and reporters who were almost all under 35. We started talking about cord cutters and who uses what. This informal “survey” was eye opening, and honestly it more than surprised me. It sent a few chills down my spine.

I asked how many had online video services?

Netflix +85%
Hulu Plus 70%
Amazon Prime 60%

They’re okay with waiting a year to see the episode I watched last night.

How many DON’T have cable/satellite?

85% (No CNN, MSNBC or Fox. For ESPN events, they may go to a bar or a friend’s house that has cable.) Only two people who dropped cable had broadcast antennas.

I asked the others, “How do you watch local news?” Many don’t … and they work in the business. Four or so said they watched the live stream on their phone. But they admitted they could be easily distracted.

These are people who work in news and they don’t feel compelled to watch local news.

Why? I’m not entirely sure. Clearly they felt they got the news they needed from other online sources. More important, I got the sense they felt local news wasn’t relevant to them. They admitted that their friends outside the business don’t watch local news at all.

For ratings, we have a tendency to focus on the +35 demo. We know how to produce for that viewer. The under 35 demo is a shrinking local news audience – the numbers may resemble a ski slope.

This should scare us. We need to start discussions, research and planning to understand what will get this consumer to watch local news. Will they watch local news?

Consider holding strategy sessions driven by your employees younger than 35. Take the +35 managers out of the initial loop. See what the younger demo wants to create without the +35 bias. Empower them to come up with a project to create content their peers will seek out. Produce it. Test it.

If we don’t figure this out soon we could be facing a viewership that is truly aging out of the demos we sell. And that would be a tragedy.

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Summer: Time to Evaluate

Summer is the time to squeeze in vacations, sponsor festivals and, more importasummer 2014ntly, take stock of your station’s situation. While HUTs often dip mid-summer this is a good time to step back and re-evaluate your product and promotion. Take the time now to make sure you’re on track with your goals, your strategy and timelines. And if some course corrections are necessary, lay out your plan for making them happen.  Here are a few ways to get the evaluation ball rolling.

Pull out your Strategic Plan and review it. Have the goals or priorities changed? Are you still striving to define your brand in the same way? How are you doing on timelines for implementation? What adjustments need to be made? It’s crucial to stay in touch with the big picture and to make sure everyone is clear about the direction you’re going.

If you haven’t yet, conduct a post-sweeps review with all departments (especially news and promotion). Include everyone and review how effective the processes were in May, what went right or wrong, and how you’d like to do it differently next time.

Summer is a great time to do research to find out how viewers see your product.  Is your product seen as truly distinctive and is it valued?  Are you pursuing the best positioning opportunity in the market? These are important questions to answer.

Evaluate your daily topical promotion effort. Was the content appealing to the lead-in audiences? Declining HUTs and fractured audiences make it more important than ever to finely tune retention strategies. If you want to know with more certainty, there are several research tools to help define very specific strategies – from surveys that determine specific audiences’ content preferences to topical style to whether or not your anchors should appear in the spot.

Evaluate web site and social media procedures. How quickly are important stories posted on the web site? How is the web site used to support on-air coverage? How effective are your social media efforts in supporting your website and on-air? Those are just a few of the ways you can evaluate where you’re at now and if you’re on the right path for growth.

Summer is speeding by but taking some time to evaluate is time well spent. The process not only keeps your station on-track but will reinvigorate the team and bring renewed commitment to your goals. If you’re overwhelmed by the day-to-day and need help getting a written strategic plan together, evaluating promotion or product, or helping staff with feedback, let us know. We’d be happy to help.

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Advice for the Last Half of May … Honesty

interviewBy Steve Schwaid, VP of Digital Strategies

Are you doing real local news?  Relevant news?

I’m not talking about the robbery at the 7-11; the two druggies on the street corner that shot one another; or another suspicious package that turned out to be someone’s lunch.

Are you telling honest to goodness stories?

Be critical of your newsgathering.  Are you really digging deep and providing unique information to viewers?  Have you broken down stories that affect your community?

Many of our clients are asking us what viewers want as we head into the last half of May sweeps. In particular, “How do I get viewers to watch our late newscast?”

Here are some suggestions that work every night:

Your late news audience comes primarily from your lead-in.  Study your lead-in demos.

Women drive late news viewing. Focus on stories they care about. They want real news that’s relevant to them. They want stories and investigations that relate to their lives, their health, their family’s safety and their kids.  They want more than they can find online – more perspective and context.

Simple and obvious you say? Well, we often hear from news directors that they’re doing this “cool story.” But who is it cool to? Many times it’s cool to the newsroom or to another manager.  Who is willing to push back and question doing that “cool” story?

Test your topics.  Call your mom and ask her if she’d want to watch the story and tell her to be honest. Go to the folks in sales or traffic and ask them what they think of the story.  Ask them to be honest. Would it be enough to keep them up to watch the late news?

Honesty – that’s the theme here. You have to be honest with your viewers. If the story doesn’t impact them, do you honestly think they will watch?

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Simple Fix for Weak Storytelling

By Laura Hernandez, Senior Consultant, Talent Coach

Good storytelling begins and ends (especially begins) with good communication.  And it’s really pretty simple: start with a strong lead sentence that “tells them what you’re gonna tell them.”  You know, the one your English and/or journalism teacher insisted on.  There’s a reason for it.ScreenHunter_383 Apr. 11, 2014 11.24

When you start with a strong lead sentence that tells the audience what your story is about, they will be with you from the beginning and, therefore, more easily understand your supporting facts, figures and details. They will get it, and they like that.

It seems the strong lead is becoming a lost art, discarded with the other practical elements of good communication like verbs (that’s a blog for another day). In an effort to be more creative, backing into a story seems to have become the norm. Building suspense may work for a thriller movie, but today’s news audience doesn’t have the patience for it. Especially when they have their smartphone in hand and can quickly find a source that will cut to the chase.

Every story – news, weather, sports and yes, even the heart-warming, feel-good ones – will benefit from a strong lead. It doesn’t mean your stories have to be boring. On the contrary, I would say they will be more engaging. I’m not talking about a stodgy headline, but a conversational, “here’s the deal” kind of a lead.

There’s another huge benefit to a strong lead: it will help with more natural delivery.  When I work with talent in my coaching sessions, this is often something we work on together. So, let’s review. Starting your story with a strong lead sentence is good communication (that is the goal after all). It’s helpful for the audience and a positive for delivery too. I can’t think of a single reason why it shouldn’t make a comeback.

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