Examining Their Web Possibilities

Apr 24, 2006  •  Post A Comment

In late February, Hearst-Argyle-owned NBC station KCRA-TV in Sacramento, Calif., decided not to cover the funeral of a California Highway Patrol officer who was killed in the line of duty. Instead, the station chose to stream the funeral live on its Web site.

That coverage generated small numbers-a little more than 1,000 video views and about 6,600 page views. But KCRA wasn’t going for big online ratings, said Brian Bracco, VP of news for Hearst-Argyle. “We were serving that part of the community impacted by that story. We were going hyper-local with that information,” he said. “This was for a particular area hard hit by a tragedy that did not have mass appeal.”

Delivering additional video coverage online is not yet commonplace among broadcasters, but increasingly a handful of forward-thinking station groups are finding ways to leverage their video expertise into the online world by recognizing that a station’s Web presence must include more than text and regurgitated news.

Hearst-Argyle and CBS owned-and-operated stations, for instance, are beginning to use their sites in a way that acknowledges the specific needs of Internet news consumers.

“The Internet is almost acting like our secondary channel in many respects,” said Brian Bracco, VP of news for Hearst-Argyle.

Because the Web isn’t a broadcast, stations can use it to narrowcast and super-serve a niche. When a station does that for several stories, a site can amass a larger audience overall, Mr. Bracco said.

Other Webcasts do attract a big audience. For instance, Hearst-Argyle’s ABC station WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh covered the Pittsburgh Steelers victory parade on the Tuesday following their Super Bowl victory, generating 1.1 million page views and nearly 100,000 video streams.

The trick then is knowing how to use the site, and recognizing that online news video can work for small and big stories. In both cases, it’s another way to serve the audience.

In general, online station traffic rises around 9 a.m., dips around 11 a.m., ticks back up again at 2 p.m. and then spikes at 4 p.m. before people leave the office, he said. Those patterns indicate viewers are tuning into their local stations while at work. Hearst Argyle has begun producing two-minute webcasts for most of its stations, running them about three or four times each day, Mr. Bracco said.

A Groupwide Facelift

The CBS owned-and-operated stations began an overhaul of all 17 stations’ Web sites last summer, a process that was completed by the end of last year. That groupwide facelift transformed the sites into what Jonathan Leess, president and general manager for CBS Television Stations digital media group, calls “broadband news portals.” Now, all on-air stories are made available online. Stations are also producing original content for the Web, such as live breaking reports and 3- to 5-minute Web-only updates on top stories, as well as weather and traffic.

Since the changeover, video views are up more than 200 percent for the group. What’s more, he said, the stations are selling 10- to 15-second spots in the videos at $30 to $80 CPMs, much higher than the CPMs for traditional Web ads such as banners. Ad dollars increased in the last year by triple digits for the stations’ sites as a whole, he said.