As A Marketing Tool, The Web Rules

In this dot-com world of failed business models, television stations have embraced the Web as not so much a money maker, but a marketing tool for the 21st century. On average, TV station websites are technically simple, hosted off-site, and driven by local information. The payoff? Page views.

In just two years, NBC affiliate KXAN-TV's website has grown from 300,000 to 3 million page views a month. That's a lot of people in the Austin, TX market looking at KXAN and NBC branding. And what people see on a stationâs website is based on what stations feel is important to their audience.

ãDynamic integrationä is the buzz phrase for the industry. Dynamic integration allows for realtime updates to the website from whatever system is integrated. This has two primary benefits: The latest information becomes available on the website, and the process is, for the most part, automated.

Forty-two percent of webmasters reported that their sites are dynamically integrated with their stationsâ weather system, with a slightly smaller percentage (38 percent) integrating with their stations' traffic (programming) system. A far lower percentage have dynamic integration with their newsgathering technologies. Only eight percent of webmasters reported that their sites are integrated with their station's newsroom computer system, with 12 percent reporting integration with traffic (road condition) systems.

For the 92 percent of stations without newsroom dynamic integration, manually updating news content is standard operating procedure. The demands of manual updates on a small Web staff tend to result in less frequent updates. On average, webmasters reported 1.5 full-time (the highest being four) and 1.25 part-time (the highest being three) staffers, with less than stellar site updates. A full 30 percent of webmasters reported that their site updates only twice a day, 28 percent reported once-a-day updates, and 17 percent reported updates less frequent than every other day. Only 11 percent of stations update their news content every four hours, with 6 percent updating hourly.

From a design and content integration standpoint, the majority of webmasters (73 percent) reported that they use Macromedia's Dreamweaver, a longtime favorite of website designers. In addition, the majority of stations use flat files (simple text files, 72 percent), cgi scripts (56 percent), and JavaScript (82 percent). Most webmasters have shied away from PERL scripts (65 percent), xml files (66 percent), dhtml files (72 percent), and Java (64 percent).

For proprietary Web surfers, almost half of all webmasters reported that their sites have been designed to work on AOL (49 percent) and WebTV (44 percent) platforms.

About The Survey: The 2001 DigitalTV magazine "TV On The Web" survey was mailed to the webmaster at 1,000 U.S. commercial and non-commercial full power television stations with 337 completed surveys received for a response rate of 34 percent.

Jonathan Bellows is a contributing editor for DigitalTV.