Let’s say, just for the heck of it, hypothetically of course, that a local TV station contracted with me to figure out their content strategy across a multitude of devices. Wh at would it look like? What are the challenges that news stations face today that have kept them from realizing their potential to reach a more diverse audience than they do now?
Let’s start by breaking down the landscape. I’ll do that with a question. When’s the last time you watched the 11 O’Clock news? Right. I can’t remember, either. That’s not to say people aren’t watching. Viewership actually grew last year, according to a Pew research report. But additional data showed that younger viewers aren’t turning on the TV. They’re turning to Facebook.
The only thing that’s changed since, well, never, is the weather report. The trusted anchors lead with whatever tragedy tops the news (often based on where their reporters get the best footage), followed by a rundown across the region. Break to commercial. Eventually we get to the weather, TV news’ biggest draw, so that eats up more time than an awkward conversation with your in-laws where there’s nothing to talk about but the weather. Then comes sports. You gotta wait because the news director knows that after the weather, people want to see highlights. Then close with a light story about puppies or children, then lead in to Jimmy. And, it appears, the formula works, more or less.
I’m guessing – and there’s plenty of data to back this up – that if you’re under 50 you’re probably not willing to give up 35 minutes — in a row, anyway — of your day to learn about the day’s news, especially if you don’t get to choose what stories you want to learn about.
Yet the newscast persists. Mostly because it’s the TV station’s cash cow. But make no mistake: The air is seeping out.
News execs are beginning to recognize this while trying to figure out how to better monetize their online properties. But they’re not there yet.
Then there’s social. Some — but not all – stations will put big efforts into social media. And they should. Most millennials and a majority of Gen Xers find their news there. It’s great from an editorial perspective, particularly on Twitter where the reporters can further their own personal brands while maintaining a tie to the mother ship. But the return for the station is almost nothing, and ultimately ends up costing them in staff time.
So where does that leave us? More after this commercial break.