Going to where the people are

A TV station in Lansing has flipped its evening anchor and morning anchor because, they say, morning is where the growth is and, in TV, that’s where the big names belong.

In the mornings, they haven’t yet been deluged by information. “It’s the one time of the day when people haven’t already been plugged in to the news,” said Jam Sardar, the WLNS news director.

While other ratings drop, mornings thrive. “The fastest-growing audience is the morning audience,” said Kevin Ragan, the WILX news director. “Sometimes, it’s referred to as the new prime time.”

Assuming that isn’t just marketing talk for moving a rising morning star to the evening, it’s interesting how the station is going where the people are, a concept that is more important now than ever as markets fracture. That kind of thinking should inspire all media to look at where the people are congregating and go to them, rather than expecting them to come to you.

In the Triad, WGHP and WFMY both expanded their morning broadcasts to begin at 4:30 a.m. this month. WXII is already there. (Didn’t Kimberly Van Scoy move from nights to mornings five or six years ago?) But it’s doubtful that at least one of those stations will follow WILX’s lead any time soon, says Neill McNeill, evening anchor at Fox8:

In this market  I can tell you the evening newscasts on all three stations still produce “sell-able” numbers. In other words, the stations still make money off of them–else we wouldn’t be doing them.

On top of that, WGHP is the only station in this market that produces a primetime newscast at 10pm. It consistently is the #1 Fox Affiliate 10pm news (per capita) in the country. (The Fox affiliate in St. Louis slipped by us in November because the World Series was on FOX and the Cardinals were in it.) So— this newscast is and has been an important part of our primetime.

Also–most of  the evening news anchors in this market are well-established and “known” in the market as are most of the morning anchors. Therefore, I don’t see anyone moving to opposite sides of the clock anytime soon. But you never truly know what might happen in this business.


Exclusive! Exclusives are dead!

What do you say we put the term “exclusive” in a coffin and nail it shut? It is dead. You just don’t know it. And the corpse is starting to smell.

First, I thought TV news programs were the main offender, but print and digital sites do it, too. Want an exclusive interview with Mitt Romney? ABC has one. So does Fox. As does KWQC. And the Wall Street Journal. He doesn’t say anything revealing or earth-shattering in these interviews, but he’s looking at your camera and your camera alone so it must be important. Exclusive!

That sound you hear are viewers and readers yawning.

When I was an editor of a newspaper, for a brief period, we announced our exclusives with a logo reading “Exclusive.” Clever, huh? We stopped after a few months when we realized that readers weren’t impressed.

Enough already. Here are three reasons that you should stop with the exclusive marketing.

1. An exclusive lasts about the length of time it takes someone to write 140 characters or fewer on on Twitter. Or an aggregator to sweep up the story on its own site. Or a wire service to pick it up, rewrite it and not give you any credit. After about 5 minutes of your wonderful exclusive, it’s gone. The exceptions are those stories that are truly memorable and make a difference. The News & Observer’s investigation into the SBI, for instance. It’s not tomorrow morning’s exclusive interview with Joran Van der Sloot’s prosecutor.

2. Announcing exclusives is just a gimmick, and a worn-out gimmick at that. People hear it so often that “in an exclusive interview” are just words that wash over you. People don’t remember who had what exclusive on which story anyway. Do a Google search of “Casey Anthony” exclusive. The first 10 results include ABC, Fox, TMZ, Hollywood Reporter, Nancy Grace, National Enquirer and Huffington Post. (Two are from the Daily Buzz and Funny or Die, which are video spoofs. Appropriate, huh?) Locally, TV stations are currently battling exclusives over the firing of four police officers in Candor, a town of less than 1,000 people 60 miles away from Greensboro. I would question whether the bulk of the audience is that interested in the story to be pushing the exclusive label, but that’s just me.

3. You look foolish. When you boast of an exclusive you know what it tells people? Everything else you have is commodity stuff I can get anywhere. And why would you want to tell me that? It hurts your credibility and devalues all media. We can’t afford it. Especially because much of your other stuff isn’t commodity. I worked in the newspaper business long enough to know that a lot of the stories in papers and on television are exclusives. They just aren’t sensational enough to SHOUT ABOUT THEM!

OK. I’ve said my peace. I don’t expect the Today Show not to have an exclusive tomorrow with one of the Kardashians on those pesky paternity rumors or Good Morning America to have Jay Z on to talk about the baby and the complaints about the hospital. But it would be nice not to hear about it.

Got a story? Now’s the time to tell it

Now begins the deadest week in the news business. Not the deadliest. I’m sure there will be plenty of deaths. The deadest, as in the least amount of news.

Governments are basically closed. Many businesses are basically closed. School is out. People are vacationing. Other than day-after-Christmas shopping, not much is happening. Don’t believe me, drive downtown during rush hour. It’ll be pretty much deserted.

Consequently, news operations are also operating with skeleton staffs. Oh, there will be newspapers and newscasts, but there won’t be a lot of news. (If real news were happening, you wouldn’t see those day-after-Christmas stories, I guarantee you. News teams don’t like to do them. They do them only because THERE’S NOTHING ELSE HAPPENING.) I don’t know about TV, but the newspapers have planned and/or written stories in advance to get them through this dry spot. Hence, the “best stories of the year” lists.

On the other hand, if you have a story that needs to be told or that the news media ignored earlier in the year, now is the best time to contact a reporter or editor and tell them about it. Call a news conference: you’ll have so many reporters there that you might think you’d just announced you were D.B Cooper returning from the lost continent of Atlantis to marry a Kardashian.

Update: Scott Nunn of the Wilmington Star-News adds via Facebook: And to top it off, ads fall off. Looking a LOT of space to fill in Wilmington’s A section tonight. Two words — “big art”

News judgment vs. people’s searches

Poynter compares and contrasts newspaper editors’ choices for the top news stories of the year with the top 10 user searches on the most popular search engines.

My friend Julie Moos writes: “The list, based on 247 responses, shows the difference between newsroom leaders’ editorial judgment and people’s reading interests. Four of the stories picked by editors weren’t among the top 10 lists of user searches on Google, Yahoo or Bing.”

I suspect she knows that’s like comparing Osama and Obama. I participated in the editors’ survey for a few years. I made selections based purely on what I deemed the most important news of the year, and I am guessing that most of the editors did the same thing. Had I been asked to vote on people’s reading interests, I would have voted differently. (Although Charlie Sheen would have been on my “search” list and he didn’t show up anywhere, including Twitter. #NotWinning!)

Those surveys — and probably editors in general — have always been culturally ignorant so it doesn’t surprise me that Amy Winehouse, Conrad Murray and Casey Anthony didn’t make the top 10 with the editors.

What I would be more alarmed about as a newspaper editor is another story on Poynter about Google searches. Steve Myers reports the popularity in Google of searches of local news organizations. Out of the 30 markets reported, newspaper websites ranked No. 1 in only 11, including in Charlotte. (The News & Observer was ranked #7 in Raleigh, behind No. 1 WRAL. Interestingly, WRAL, a Raleigh station, was No. 3 in Charlotte.)

I could be misinterpreting the data because people could search for the name of the website and the paper. I hope I am.



Let’s do the Time Warp again

At 3:49 p.m. Tuesday, Fox 8 reported on its website that Rep. Howard Coble had been admitted to the hospital. Shortly thereafter, the station sent that link out to its 98,000 Facebook fans.

An hour and 15 minutes later — at 5:04 p.m. — the anchor of the Fox 8 5 o’clock news preceded the Coble-to-the-hospital story by announcing “This just in to the newsroom.”

Obviously, it wasn’t “just in.” It was simply the first time the newsroom had the chance to tell the viewing audience about it. “This just in” joins “breaking news” in the media loose-language category. Morning television often describes as “breaking news” something that occurred some time overnight, often hours after the news was actually breaking.

The Internet has changed the news world in many ways, not the least of which is when people get news. For me, I learned of the Coble story around 4 p.m. when I read Mark BInker’s blog post, which was filed at 3:44 p.m. Hundreds — maybe thousands — read it on the Fox 8 Facebook page during that hour-and-15-minute period before it flowed into the Fox 8 newsroom.

What’s wrong with stretching the time continuum this way? Isn’t it just a way to make the news seem more dramatic and urgent?

By definition, breaking news doesn’t need added drama. But this is more than a problem of imprecise use of language. People are smart and we shouldn’t make them roll their eyes at our attempts to inflate and package the news. At a time when the news media’s credibility hovers down there with Congress, we can squander our opportunities.