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Remaining competitive

Broadcasters don't have a choice if they wish to remain competitive in today's rapidly evolving media climate. They must implement more efficient workflows, free up resources, and focus their efforts on better serving their viewers and advertisers, says Dave Lougee, president of the Broadcasting Division of Gannett.

Lougee, who is delivering one of three keynote speeches at the News Technology Summit, organized by Broadcast Engineering and Broadcasting & Cable magazines Sept. 24-25 in Dallas, points out that the rise of broadband, the Internet and the evolving media consumption habits of the general public demand that broadcasters understand what their competitive advantages are and what they are not.

“In the past, so much of our business was built around our distribution, towers and transmitters. Having a license gave you an advantage in business that resulted from having a very valuable and unique way into the home,” Lougee says. “As broadband gets ubiquitous, that opens up a whole new set of issues, relative to our distribution advantage. We continue to have an advantage, but we don't have the same hold on distribution that we once did.”

To compete, TV stations must radically transform their workflows so they can allocate a higher percentage of resources to focus on serving their customers' needs.

“We need to have more resources dedicated to gathering and originating original local content or making direct local sales,” he says.

Currently, too much labor and overhead cost are focused on back-end processes at the station that don't directly impact viewers and advertisers.

“The technology is there for us to change that model relatively dramatically,” he says, “but we have to face that as an industry.”

On the news side of the station, that means a workflow that allows journalists to create stories seamlessly for the full range of today's distribution platforms. On the sales side, that means taking advantage of technology to streamline the sales process so more effort can be focused on getting in front of customers and less on paperwork back at the office, Lougee adds.

While technology offers a part of the solution, another critical piece is the willingness of personnel to adapt to changing demands on what they do stemming from these new workflows.

“I remember it wasn't that long ago that some of us worked in newsrooms that were both TV and radio newsrooms. Reporters at the time didn't think twice about filing a story for TV or radio. The same is true for whatever technologies become available in the future,” Lougee says. “What we have in our newsrooms are journalists. We have to take advantage of that software and those desktop applications that make it possible for a much higher percentage of our folks to be putting out content.”

Doing so will help journalists take advantage of the Internet to better fulfill a core broadcast mission, namely serving the local audience.

“What we define as local doesn't really line up with what the customer's definition of local is,” Lougee explains. “As an industry, we define local as the reach of our transmitter and then how Nielsen puts a bow around what those transmitters reach.”

Lougee points to the Washington, D.C., DMA as an example.

“Inside the Washington, D.C., DMA is the District of Columbia; Prince George's County, MD; Montgomery County, MD; Fairfax County, VA; Arlington County, VA; and a couple of others too,” he says. “Those to some extent are different planets. That's a definition of local that only exists because of broadcast transmitters.”

However, the Internet gives stations the chance to become hyper-local in their coverage. The key to making that happen, Lougee says, is using technology to transform workflows so that more resources are available to generate the relevant content that serves their communities.