Sorry... the party is over. Those big fat ad dollars from your local politician are gone. The economy is failing and the forecast for your ad dollars—online and on-air is bleak. Sounds like a recipe for disaster? Maybe not. There could be a silver lining in those black clouds. I know, I know, enough clichés.
OK, so this is a news technology column. What does this have to do with technology? A lot. It's about technology and workflow. Yes, workflow! Workflow first, then technology.
As I've stated previously, viewers have many places to go to get their news content on air and on the Web. While many viewers still use TV newscasts as their primary source for local news, viewership is declining across all dayparts. The good news is that news revenue as a percentage of stations' total revenue is growing. Also, the traditional time for local news is shifting. Local newscasts between 5 p.m.–7 p.m. saw a drop in ratings and share in three of the four sweep months in 2007.
More and more viewers are going online for their news. If you read through the Project for Excellence in Journalism's The State of the News Media 2008 report (www.stateofthenewsmedia.org/2008/narrative_localtv_intro.php?media=8) you will learn that the way stations are increasing revenue is by offering differentiated programming like Web or mobile-only content or other times for news such as daytime. Both are most likely achieved through alternate distribution platforms such as the Open Mobile Video platform or streaming on the Internet.
Online news consumption results of Internet users from The State of the News Media 2008 report. So, how do you get more viewers that will lead to more revenue? Differentiate yourself from the competition and offer viewers content they want when and where they want it and you will succeed. Also, offer advertisers things they can't get elsewhere. Banner ads don't cut it anymore.
DOING MORE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
Write once, use many. There is probably plenty of content that you shoot that never makes airtime or your Web site. A great example is a press conference. All of us go to shoot a press conference only to use a few bites on their newscasts. Many news directors would say, "We've selected the best, the rest is not relevant."
Maybe, but why not give the viewer the choice. Here's a way to repurpose a press conference. OK, before you say that "this will cost me too much" or "I don't have the staff or resources to do this," listen to this.
For a small capital investment you can turn any form of content into Web content. Start with an Apple Xserve (around $5,000), add Telestream's Episode Engine (around $4,000) and you can easily transcode any content into Web content. If you equip your field cameras with Focus Enhancements FS-CV Portable DTE Recorder, you can record any event directly onto a hard drive in a format appropriate for your nonlinear editor or into a QuickTime-wrapped DV25 file. Also, you can add metadata while you shoot the data. Focus has metadata templates that you can write to from your laptop or portable device. Here's how it would work.
You go to any event, press conference, school play, debate, etc. You shoot onto the FireStore. While you are shooting you add metadata via your wireless device. When you get back to the station, you plug the drive into the Xserve. You browse for the file from the Episode engine interface and let Episode Engine transcode to your favorite Web format. You export the metadata (it could be automated) and it goes into a Web template. If you use ENPS, you could have created a placeholder for the event and attach any pertinent metadata. If you created some standard metadata fields, you could export those fields into a Web page and attach the transcoded file. With a few simple steps, you could post an entire press conference with metadata onto your Web site.
If you tweak the process you could automate the process so that it runs every time you plug the Focus drive into the Xserve.
BANNER ADS DON'T CUT IT
As new advertisers move to the Web, they are less inclined to spend their precious and shrinking ad dollars on traditional formats like banner ads or pop-ups. More advertisers are spending money on promotions where they could easily see results. So, how can you give an advertiser more for their money? It requires a little out of the box thinking…
First, put their content in a place on your site that doesn't have a lot of ads and clutter around it. Too many local TV Web sites have things popping up at you, blinking at you and there are many of them on a page. This is not only true for local TV Web sites, the same holds true for many local newspaper Web sites. You would think that they pay for every pixel on a page and use every pixel to put something in. Look at the New York Times or AP Mobile News Network iPhone apps for inspiration. They present the content in an easy to read form.
OK… some technology. Remember the Open Mobile Video Coalition and the ATSC mobile standard? Basically what they create is a multicast network to an addressable device. In the content you stream to an ATSC mobile device, there could be a promotion that you featured on your Web site or on air. The promotion could be for an event sponsored by your local Italian restaurant. If you leveraged the capability of the Plum Reward (http://plumreward.com) and the IP addressability of an ATSC mobile device, you could deliver geographic or demographic promotions or ads.
All of this is possible and good enough. Look at what you want to do first and then find the technology and workflow to support it. Don't find a piece of technology and figure out how it could be used in your workflow!
Harlan Neugeboren is CEO of The Workflow & Technology Group. He can be reached at Harlan@wftgroup.com.