Expanding News Coverage Beyond TV

Apr 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Newsroom computer systems aren’t just for the 6 p.m. news anymore. Television stations are looking at new revenue streams, such as digital channels, video-on-demand and mobile TV, and updated newsroom computer systems will be among the tools that stations use to navigate the new broadcast tributaries.

A newsroom computer system is the guts of a station’s editorial operation, and leading providers Associated Press, with its ENPS, and Avid, with its iNews, are tweaking their systems so they can better integrate with other equipment in a newsroom and handle the new territories that broadcasters are just beginning to explore.

The notion of newsroom convergence that first came to light a few years ago has now gelled more clearly to refer to vertical integration in a station rather than horizontal integration. That means instead of converging print, TV and the Web en masse, broadcasters are now figuring out how to extend their news brands into additional platforms, such as digital and on-demand channels. Newsroom computer systems play a central role in the operation of the newsroom today, and they will also be called on to manage the news that flows in and out of these new streams.

“In order for a local TV station to survive in a multichannel universe we have to stop thinking of ourselves as a single-channel place in the digital world,” said Dan Bradley, VP of news for Media General Broadcast Group. “The days of living and making a good strong profit on appointment TV are numbered. We have to figure out ways to get our content on as many different devices as possible.”

Mr. Bradley looks to ENPS as one of the pieces of equipment that will make this transition possible for local broadcasters. Media General is introducing ENPS into its 20 stations that offer news.

This year AP plans to focus on upgrades to ENPS that allow the system to stretch further into the news organization. That means the latest iteration will include more and advanced search capabilities so users can search for video or graphics, for instance, across long-term content management databases such as archives.

“Not many stations have [archives] yet,” acknowledged Bill Burke, product manager for ENPS. However, he added, “We are doing it now because eventually they are going to have them, and this is a capability that is going to be key.”

As stations trawl for content for secondary digital channels, weather channels and mobile devices, better search functions can help manage that process, he said. “It’s not just a 6 p.m. world. This workstation gives them the tools to work toward how content is changing,” Mr. Burke said. “TV stations are moving toward a more generalized way of how they do content. Just like networks are looking at a more fragmented audience, fewer people are available or willing to be there at 6 p.m. or 11 p.m. for the newscast. [So] stations are looking at every possible way to extend their brand.

“Whether doing a weather channel or mobile TV, there is an evolving view of their content. … [Now the mentality is,] ‘Let’s create a pool of content to push out to multiple types of platforms.'”

One of the ways ENPS enables that more holistic view of content is by maintaining the same workflow, or process, regardless of the device or database a journalist accesses from ENPS. “If I want to add a graphic to a story, I drag and drop a pointer into the story for that,” Mr. Burke said.

ENPS also lets anyone using the system view content available anywhere in the news operation, even if that person doesn’t have physical access to the server or editing system, for instance.

Users also want to be able to view content across the entire station group, Media General’s Mr. Bradley said. When ENPS is installed at all 20 Media General news stations by the end of this year, each station can access scripts from each other without making a phone call. Long-term, Mr. Bradley wants to be able to share graphics and video in this fashion.

Avid is also pushing iNews toward a platform-agnostic approach to content. The company planned to make a number of announcements at NAB regarding changes to iNews but declined to share details in advance.

However, iNews users say they are looking for tighter integration with other newsroom systems, said David Schleifer, VP of broadcast and workgroups at Avid. As a result, Avid has worked over the past year to link iNews more closely to Avid’s and other manufacturers’ nonlinear editing system as well as shared storage systems. In addition, Avid has tightened the integration with graphics companies such as Pinnacle and Vizrt so graphics can be viewed directly in iNews, Mr. Schleifer said.

“This isn’t a product where there have been big fundamental changes in the architecture. What we have been working on is fine-tuning the integration with other companies,” he said.

Avid counts about 60,000 workstations worldwide using iNews and about 25,000 in the U.S., including station groups such as Gannett, Meredith, Sinclair, Belo and the NBC-owned stations.

ENPS has about 40,000 workstations worldwide, and about half are in the United States. ENPS station groups in the United States include Hearst-Argyle, Tribune and Emmis, while the CBS Network and ESPN also use ENPS. Last year the company grew its ENPS business 30 percent over 2003.