Editorial: Local TV News on Web: Attack, Attack, Attack!

Jan 18, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Difficult times spur the greatest innovations, and television stations are proving the point. The recession is choking off revenue for stations, their newscasts face ever more ratings challenges as young viewers drift to the Web, and local newspapers are challenging their in-market video supremacy.
Some station groups are showing agility, however, as highlighted in Daisy Whitney’s piece in this issue of TelevisionWeek. In sum, NBC stations are turning their Web sites into Internet town squares, diversifying their operations by pairing with prominent local bloggers to produce online reports.
It’s a risky but potentially brilliant plan. Risky in that one blogger gone haywire can put a station’s reputation (and defamation insurance policy) in peril. But it’s also a way for stations to steal a march on their newspaper competition.
Many local bloggers deliver highly targeted, quality editorial to a segment of the population that has drifted away from establishment media, including TV stations and newspapers. Why? Because in some cases those bloggers delivered more relevant, incisive news more quickly than their stodgy old-media forebears.
That’s right: TV stations need to take their lumps for ceding this editorial ground. They’ve stuck with the “If it bleeds it leads” news judgment that makes them so parody-worthy. And viewers are tired of watching meteorologists with pun names. (Cue Storm Doppler standing in front of the green screen in a plaid suit.)
Luckily for stations, newspapers have been even slower to move away from their old-school, it’s-news-if-we-decide-it’s-news ethos. And the fact that for most citizens reading a newspaper is like taking medicine gives stations a vital toehold as they duel to win local-market supremacy on the Web.
Stations must capture local-market Web traffic to grab whatever online advertising economy emerges. To do that, their editorial content has to be demonstrably better, and more popular, than that on their newspaper rivals’ Web sites.
Well-selected local bloggers and video bloggers can deliver these loyal audiences to TV stations, creating content on a cost basis that undercuts staff writers at newspapers. As long as third-party content is clearly designated as coming from independent sources, and vetted for defamation, it gives stations nothing but upside.
Stations need to look to the Web if they want to grow long-term. Becoming a local-market town square is the way to do it.


  1. local television stations might be poised to gain in rank over newspapers in the online space by embracing local bloggers and vloggers. It’s a constructive outreach among many that should be integrated, though this will not, in and of itself, convert automatically into higher traffic, interactivity, or funneling. Magic bullets don’t exist. It’s more demanding than merely figuring out whether to take one blue pill or one red pill.
    For my bottom line: http://richreader.blogspot.com/2009/01/can-local-television-become-local.html

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