Skip to content

Combine Newspaper and TV News? Great Idea!

2009 May 15
by Steve Lawson

An article in last Sunday’s New York Times sums up the dire state of local TV advertising .  Revenues are down across the country.  E. W. Scripps down 20% compared to the same quarter last year.  Belo down 23%, News Corp down 28%, and Walt Disney Company down 30%.

Local news is important to a community, and extremely important to a TV station’s survival as news operations typically generate 40% to 50% of station revenues.

Why are revenues down?  Well, it’s partly the economy – especially the automotive, boating and recreational vehicle segments.  The good news is that when the economy picks up – sales in those industries will also rise and wise brands will once again spend money (maybe even “gush” money) to take advantage of the recovery (though a lesser percentage of those dollars will flow to traditional media).

But there is a big hunk of change that may not return.  Ever.  They are the once local dollars that are now allocated nationally by conglomerates who consolidated successful regional brands into a national umbrella, and those that decided to discontinue their regional operations as a means of cutting costs.

When Macys (and others) pulled their local dollars, it hurt local communities.  For years, local newspapers were blessed with multiple multi-page retail advertising spreads.  I can remember a time when the “A” section of the Seattle Times and Seattle PI were filled with multi-page ads for The Bon Marche (now Macys), Frederick and Nelson, Lamonts and more.

These same regional brands bought TV and radio advertising, and worked closely with local media on promotions, and with not-for-profits and media on cause marketing campaigns.

But those days are over.

As all news organizations have suffered financial losses, they have been forced to cut, cut, cut.

In many industries that works just fine.  But when you are in the “content” business, cutting content  is a really bad idea.  Today, there are more hours of local news than ever, with fewer stories repeated, and repeated and repeated.

I currently watch the 5pm news (typically around 7pm via my DVR),  the 10pm news (at least the first 15 minutes), and the morning news starting at around 6:15am.  It’s safe to say that other than traffic reports, just about every story is recycled into every newscast.  In fact, it seems the same story will now last for several days with few variations or updates.  It’s gotten so bad, that I refer to it as the “olds” rather than the “news”.

To save money, according to the NYT article, Tribune Company has merged its TV stations and daily newspapers in Miami and Hartford, and is producing a lighthearted morning show in south Florida with the help of the newspaper’s columnists.

I can’t think of a better idea to help both the newspapers AND local TV.

By combing the best talent of TV and Newspaper news gathering organizations hopefully we’ll see some new and interesting stories covered along with new ways of disseminating them in print and on TV;   converging all of the aggregated content online.

Give all reporters an HD Handicam and a tripod and let them loose.   Breaking news can be blogged.  Those blogs can be expanded into print stories and TV stories.  The TV newscasts can contain the most important content submitted that day.  You can now edit on a iPhone.

Make it new.  Make it fresh.  Make it “news”!

People will watch.  The web will drive traffic to the TV; TV to the web and print.  Local media outlets will have a local audience to sell to local advertisers.  The problem is, today, the BIG money has consolidated its way out of the local communities.  But that too will probably change.

Jerry Del Colliano, founder and former publisher of Inside Radio, currently consulting and teaching at USC wrote a brilliant blog yesterday titled, “If I Ran Clear Channel“.  Though his blog post is aimed at Clear Channel radio (and I think all other consolidated media outlets), it has relevance for every industry that has consolidated itself into trouble.

It’s clear that “big” hasn’t turned out to be better.  Innovation comes from small.  Hopefully, the big consolidators in all industries will see that and will create autonomous regional organizations that can act, and react quickly to changing times.

But in the meantime, I salute those who choose to combine news operations rather than shutter them.  I wish the Seattle PI had partnered with a TV Station to save some of their great people.  I truly miss their voice!

In the video below, Washington State Labor Council communications director David Groves, interviewed at the Seattle Public Library, Nov. 2006. Video courtesy SCAN-TV.  I’m sorry to report that things have actually gotten worse since this interview was conducted.  And I’m not JUST talking about revenues.


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS