If Your Website’s All About Your TV Station, You’re Dead.

WEAR/Pensacola Has Anchor Heads Up Top, Clutter Everywhere

WEAR/Pensacola's Website Has Anchor Heads Up Top, Clutter Just About Everywhere Else

Considering the basic business of local television has always been, you know, television… and the people who do the news get hired in part for their energy, personality, and knowledge (don’t bother emailing, I know I should’ve said “youth, inexperience and willingness to work for pizza”), it must mean something that the most boring blogs and video-dead websites on the internet all seem to belong to local televisions stations.  

Here’s what it means:  Local newsers?  You still don’t get the internet.

So local news director?  GM?  Give me a moment of your time and let me spell it out for you. Ready?  You’ve got it precisely backward.  The station website isn’t a tool to drive people to your newscasts.  Your newscasts are tools–until they become obsolete and cease to exist in their current form–to gather up an audience for your website.  The future is online, and the sooner you start planning for that, the better chance you’ll have of surviving.

"Buzz Maven" Scott Clark

"Buzz Maven" Scott Clark

Scott Clark, a business strategist and search marketing guy knows his websites.  And back in January, he took a close look at how stations were performing with their sites, especially at times of maximum potential traffic: right after a huge regional ice storm.  His conclusion?  “You’re doing it wrong.”

Clark takes the sites apart for assuming everyone who shows up online watches their news (and knows the anchor heads plastered all over the screen), for failing to understand search engine optimization, for failing to keep video posts current and updated, and for just having some damn ugly and annoying sites to look at: “Basic human interface design is a mature industry. You don’t even need to hire someone, but at least do some reading or buy a book and learn a bit about web design.”

It pains me to say it, but the most advanced local news website thinking seems to be emerging from the corridors of NBC, which instituted its “Locals Only” sites on O&Os this year.  The sites have little or nothing to do with the local station, though stories appear and if you dig deep enough on the site, you can find a programming schedule.  But trust me, check out NBC New York and you’ll conclude quickly the powers that be at NBC don’t see the future in building up Channel 4.  Rather, WNBC is a vehicle to build the NBC New York brand, which will likely, at some point, outlast Chuck, Sue, and the 6:00 news.


Theres Not Much WCAU on the NBC Philadelphia Site

There's Not Much WCAU on the NBC Philadelphia Site

So local news managers?  Think about it.  You’ve still got power in your broadcast brand.  But think very carefully every time you send a viewer over to your website for “more information.”  On the sites I’ve seen, those lame anchor tags and web bugs may get you a click, but they also may convince a person to never bother with your website again.  Go have a look for yourself.  And think about it this way:  if you didn’t have a tv station on the side, could this website be your entire business?  Is it good enough to BE the franchise?

No?  Then you’re already behind.  And your competitors probably won’t slow down to let you catch up.



Filed under Local News 2.0, Social Media

4 responses to “If Your Website’s All About Your TV Station, You’re Dead.

  1. The local NBC websites are not just not about TV, they aren’t even produced by the TV news staffs. The sites (at all the O&Os from San Jose to Miami to New York) are produced by an entirely separate newsroom located in midtown Manhattan (but not in expensive 30 Rock). The “local” content is generally a mix of rewritten newspaper and blog articles and some original stuff from “partners” like New York Magazine. All of which backs up your point.

    But one thing the sites do quite poorly is use video! At the start there was almost no video produced by the local stations and while that has changed somewhat, the research the honchos followed in setting all this up showed that the target audience (21-35) didn’t come to sites like these for video.

    One other note: Although I haven’t been at NBC for a few months now I am in close contact with plenty of people up and down the executive ladder and these sites continue to perform relatively poorly. Some of that is they are divorced from the TV brand and the TV audience that did come to the web has left this new site. But the other part of it I’m told is that these hot young things NBC local is chasing aren’t interested in a wanna-be one-size-fits-all “hub” for all things New York, or Chicago, or LA. So far, the word is, this is an expensive experiment that has not succeeded (and not yet deemed to have failed).

    Food for thought.

    • Jay,

      Thanks for your reply; that’s a truly interesting take on “Locals Only.” In a sense, you’re saying Locals Only may be “local” but not hyperlocal. It’s too broad, bringing a TV station sensibility to the web and in the process taking away one of the internet’s strengths: reaching unique and specific groups of people, like bread bakers who have exotic dogs. I’ve been producing some video pieces for the Brooklyn Heights Blog in my neighborhood. Unlike NBC New York, the target is hyperlocal: Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. And it gets very, very specific–from the mysterious closing of a popular wine bar to the addition of a new bread and breakfast. It’s a fascinating experience being associated with a brand that has amazing weight to it inside the blocks where I live. People will always want to know about their ‘hood. Maybe trying to do it all, TV station style, doesn’t translate well for “locals.” (Or maybe the folks at NBC New York aren’t locals?)

      Definitely food for thought. And it’s fantastic to have you reading my site, btw.


    • Warren H

      Always good to see former employees giving their opinion. Yet nearly everything Jay wrote is incorrect.

      1) The majority of content is created an edited locally by the teams in the 10 markets. Also, the New York national editors are located at 30 Rock (even that was wrong)

      2) Video has always been a priority – just not traditional broadcast news with an anchor placed online. To back it up, more video content is on the new properties than the prior ones and more video is being consumed than in the prior incarnation.

      3) The sites cost far less money to publish and manage than the prior sites.

      4) The sites have had the largest audiences by far for NBC Local in the history of the Division going back to the original eTVSD sites in the early 2000’s.

  2. DW

    Of all the local tv news sites in NY, the WNBC site is the one NOT to turn to if there is a breaking story. Stories go for hours without accompanying video, much like the old Internet Broadcasting-run sites. You can find a video about the so-called “best” bagel.
    It’s a joke.

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