Skip to content

How does TV Compete in the Social Media Universe?

2009 July 23

On Tuesday I attended a very lively discussion about the “state” of Television here in Seattle presented by the Seattle Ad Club.  The presentation was titled “Television Evolution and Future Trends“, and featured Presidents/GMs of the Seattle ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates along with a VP of HL2 Advertising here in Seattle.

Colleen Brown,  President and CEO of Fisher Communications did a nice overview to begin the program outlining the various initiatives being taken on by traditional media, including migrating content over to mobile platforms.  Brown was followed by Eric Lerner, GM of  KIRO TV (Cox – CBS).  Eric presented slides showing discrepencies between perception about TV Viewing and reality, including sharing recent local ratings which show HUGE numbers for American Idol (FOX) and many CBS TV shows aired on KIRO.  He spoke of successes in integrating audience participation into broadcasts (viewers voting for American Idol winners) and a campaign that KIRO did strictly on line revolving around “school spirit” which generated millions of page views (accoridng to Lerner).

The most interesting Television presentation of the day was delivered by Ray Heacox, President of KING Broadcasting (BELO).  Heacox focused less on statistics and more on the viewer experience, and delivering appropriate content to viewers in order to provide more opportunities for advertising clients.

If you were to listen to the Televison folks talk, DVRs are making very little impact on viewing habits, and those few consumers who do use a DVR don’t skip the commercials.  This article from titled “TV viewing at ‘all-time high,’ Nielsen says” refutes many of those arguments.  Rather than rehash the article, I’ll let you read it for yourself.  But Nielsen does site exploding choice in programming (including cable and pay channels), DVR use (time-shifting), and the “Obama Channel” election coverage of 2008 also contributing to rising viewership. The article did not touch on the Summer Olympics in 2008, though interest in that coverage was also up from previous years.

I’m not here to trash Television, nor was the lone advertising agency presenter, Kevin Densmore, VP Media at HL2 Advertising.  But some in the audience found his presentation to be hostile toward the TV folks and to that I say it’s time for all broadcast media to stop reading their own press releases and start focusing on staying relevant in the 21st century.

Jim Clayton, GM of KOMO TV/Radio (Fisher – ABC) commented that the future of Television is local programming.  I’m guessing that by local programming he means news.  In fact, he cited the number of hours Seattle TV stations devote to local news, and the quality of those newscasts measured by the number of awards won by Seattle news organizations.  And while I can’t disagree with anything ANY of these presenters said today, I can say with all certainty that things are changing so fast in the world today that it’s impossible to predict the future of mass media.

Those big expensive microwave and satellite trucks become less and less important for “breaking news” as some stations are already using small cameras hooked to cell phones to get live feeds quickly and inexpensively.  Even the networks use satellite phones to broadcast from the field, and Oprah has been using SKYPE exclusively (I’m sure for a HUGE fee) for broadcasting interviews with people outside of Chicago.

The $40,000 broadcast camera doesn’t matter to the consumer.  The story matters to the consumer.  And the station that covers more stories that people care about will win the day, even if those stories are shot on a $150 Sony Webbie Camera, and edited in Final Cut Express.  The picture may not be as sharp, but at 1920 x 1080 resolution, it’s still HD and good enough for broadcast.

What does “Local” mean?  To broadcasters it seems to mean more hours devoted to news broadcasting.  Those broadcasts include weather, sports, and “paid” segments (which is why you see so many of those sponsored “health link” type of stories).  As a viewer, I can attest to the fact that there are more opportunities to watch local news than ever before.  But it feels to me that there’s actually much less “news” being broadcast during those extended broadcasts.  The 4:30am news is virtually the same as the 11pm the night before, which is pretty darned close to the 1opm news which was almost the same at the 6:30, which was the same as the 5pm which was the same as the noon news, with segments from the night before . . . .

TV News has adopted the radio news “clock” with stories repeated endlessly because of audience churn.  I’m churned.   To me, local news is like a soap opera.  If I catch it once or twice a week I’m good.  While we used to DVR the local 5pm news to watch while my wife and I had dinner (typically around 7:30pm), we now opt in for the network news.  With only 22 or so minutes to fill, the Networks repeat less and get a bit more in-depth with their lead story.  Typically a story that has more effect on my life than a fatal traffic accident, or live coverage of a house fire.

Here are the facts:

1. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) at companies of all sizes are having to make very serious financial decisions. Their budgets have been slashed.  They need to track the ROI for every penny they spend.  Not just on advertising, but on everything that falls under “marketing” which includes a heck of a lot more than just advertising.  Channel marketing probably takes the biggest bite out of their budgets.

2.  While viewership is up overall, BIG shows are seen by much smaller audiences than in the past.  There are so many channels available for the viewer that it’s very tough for networks to provide a “home run” ratings wise.

3.  Consumers are bombarded with too many messages.  Not just on TV, but everywhere they turn.  They have become skilled at tuning them out.

4. Trust in advertising is at an all time low.  Consumers believe what they hear from their friends, NOT claims by advertisers.

5. The content delivery model is changing.  Though I’ve read a bunch of studies showing that people are willing to sit through advertising to get “free” media. I’d much rather pay $8.95 a month of Netflix and watch uninterrupted shows streamed to my TV via my computer. I haven’t been as taken by the likes of Hulu and Boxee as others.  I’m guessing others feel the same way, as Netflix is growing like crazy.  In fact, the Blockbuster in my neighborhood just closed.

6.  People may be watching TV, but as Ray Heacox pointed out, the young consumer is multi-tasking.  They may have the TV on, but they are also on the phone, “IM”ing and updating their Facebook and Twitter accounts at the same time.  If you are a broadcaster, be sure to watch this video.  If nothing else gets your attention, this should.


7. Word of Mouth is extremely effective.  And social media is word of mouth on steroids.  As I’ve said before, no one knows if Facebook, or Twitter, or My Space will be big in 2 years, but Social Media will be even bigger than it is now.

8.  The sales funnel has changed.  While in the past the top of the sales funnel “Awareness” was fed by mass media and then the consumer did research “consideration” and made a “purchase”, today social media adds more steps to the sales funnel.  After the purchase the consumer uses the product (or service), evaluates it and forms an opinion about it and then “talks” to everyone they can online through the use of social media (which includes online product reviews).  TV is good at Awareness, but not much use for any other aspect of the “NEW” sales funnel.

Classic Purchase Funnel with Social Networking

Classic Purchase Funnel with Social Networking

Back to Tuesday’s discussion in Seattle.  Though Kevin Densmore’s message was unpopular, he is right on target.  According to a recent Forrester Study as reported by Richard H. Levey in the online newsletter DIRECT , “six in ten marketers surveyed by Forrester Research Inc. will increase their interactive marketing budgets by shifting funds from traditional media.”  In a blog post by Forrester’s Shar VanBoskirk she states that overall, advertising budgets are shrinking, not growing, and Forrester is forecasting that as those total dollars shrink, more of those dollars will be going to interactive marketing.

Forrester Forecast: US Interactive Marketing Spend, 2009 To 2014

Forrester Forecast:  US Interactive Marketing Spend, 2009 To 2014

But don’t count the Television industry out for the count.  In a July 21 blog post in Chief!Marketer David Friedman points out that Television has unlimited opportunities to turn adversity into dollars by combining Television’s enormous power to broadcast big events live AND interacting with those who are already interacting with each other across the globe as they watch.

Bringing us full circle to that one key element in broadcasting success.  CONTENT IS KING!

As for predictions about the future of TV?


4 Responses leave one →
  1. Kathy Neukirchen permalink
    July 27, 2009

    Was just talking with Larry Coffman. He asked me/Media Plus+ to write an article on changes in the media, trends in traditional vs. social and how changes in media is impacting advertisers. This I will do with the help of all of the peeps working at Media Plus+ as it relates to what we see with Media Plus+ clients and other advertisers in the regional marketplace. I asked Larry if he had attended last weeks Ad Club and he mentioned that you wrote a column regarding this. So, I bit and – interesting reading.

    Now, I seldom go to ad club lunches anymore as the few I have attened in recent years have consisted of guys from growing agencies pretty much doing a “mine is bigger than yours” routine as they all try to outdo each other with how clever they are in dealing with whatever is most current, regardless of its relevance to the majority of people sitting in the room. While I will admit some of the back-and-forth can be entertaining, many of the people I talk with afterwards are saying “interesting, but what does this mean to me”.

    So, regarding last weeks Ad Club on Television Evolution, you mention that some in the crowd were hostile and to that you poo-poo. People in the audience, myself included, criticised Kevin Densmore because HE WAS RUDE!!!!!!!! His tone and demeanor suggested that only what he had to say was relevant, forgetting that the topic was on the evoluton of TV and not on the evoluton of other media that may, at some point in time, supplant TV. Now, I don’t know if his purpose on the panel was as a “point/counterpoint” person, but he was certainly having trouble keeping on topic.

    As “traditional media”, TV has a big target on its back but, as evidenced by the successes clients (including ours) continue to have using it; it will be a signifance player in a media/marketing mix for a long time.

    We say that the media talk to their audiences in many ways and it is our job to access these ways to the benefit of our clients. This we do using the broad range of options out there anymore, with social media being just one of them. Now, how one goes about getting compensated for the time it takes to engage in social marketing endeavors would be a very helpful topic for an ad club luncheon.

  2. July 27, 2009

    Hi Kathy –

    Thanks for taking the time to write. This dialog is really important as we all move forward.

    I, for one, don’t see this topic as either/or. Clients have needs for all types of media. As far as compensation, people are getting paid for performing search engine optimization, and helping companies design digital strategies to compliment, or in some cases replace their traditional marketing efforts.

    Most SEO or digital marketing consultants bill out their time on retainer, project or hourly basis.

    As for Kevin being rude, I didn’t feel that, or hear that from people at my table, nor from others I know that attended the meeting. Kevin(who I have never met) certainly spoke with “attitude”, but I guess I’m used to that personality type having been exposed to so many with “tudes” in the music industry, ad agencies and software companies.

    While television and radio continue to work for the right advertisers, they are also becoming irrelevant to “millennials”, a key demographic. TV and Radio can’t afford to hide their heads in the sand.

    One of the biggest problems faced by media companies is that consolidation hasn’t worked out as expected.

    The high debt they took on to finance station acquisitions makes it very hard for these same stations to “pencil” today. Stations saw a drop in revenue when networks stopped paying huge fees to local affiliates for carrying their programming, while at the same time, syndication fees for proven shows like Oprah continued to spiral. In addition, consolidation in other industries (in our market Macy’s moving most of their TV dollars to network)has had a huge effect on stations’ bottom lines.

    Technological sea-changes have rocked many industries. The audio recording industry (at least those studios that focused on advertising work) lost two huge profit centers due to technological advances.

    When dubs made way for digital commercial delivery over phone lines, the recording industry lost a HUGE source of profit. (In a side note, the people who killed the radio dub were then murdered by the internet; the “free” way of distributing commercials to radio – AND TV).

    The second big loss came when digital recording took over, killing the markup on recording tape.

    Those two examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The recording industry has also been shaken up by the proliferation of project studios owned by voice-over talent AND the easy availability of inexpensive commercial (needle-drop) music available for immediate purchase/download on-line. These have led to the loss of big margins on music and time booked at commercial studios.

    What happened to all the typesetters we used to employ? Where are all the illustrators, photographers and pre-press companies?

    Back to the point. The media world is changing. It’s fragmenting. It’s niche focusing.

    TV is not going away, but as an industry needs to re-examine its business model and adjust for the future. Trying to do the same thing they’ve always done – only on the internet won’t work.

    Television needs to listen to those in the trenches, the ones who are excited about the future, not afraid of it. Those who are living it, and eating it and breathing it.

    For the first time, this revolution is not just being televised. It’s being blogged, tweeted, forwarded, linked-to and commented on.

    Again, thanks so much for reading my blog post and especially for commenting.

  3. October 28, 2009

    Steve, I really appreciated your original post, and your participation in the comment thread was also appreciated. Keep at it — pull the arrows out of your back and keep pioneering. Clay

  4. October 28, 2009

    Thanks for commenting Clay! The arrows don’t sting too badly . . . .

    Traditional Media will certainly not evaporate but I do expect to see big ownership changes. I think the law of diminishing returns has caught up with the broadcast industry, and we know how Wall Street loves diminishing returns.

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