I recently had a long conversation with Bob Gambert, a former TV news colleague of mine. It was sparked by a comment I made on Twitter that TV newsrooms should post original video content to Facebook instead of teases for newscasts and stories. He took exception, and the discussion eventually turned into a back and forth about the state of the TV industry. He’s of the opinion that social media should primarily be used to maximize profits. TV stations should display content where they can make money.
While I respect my friend and his point of view, I strongly disagree.
You hear plenty of others in the TV news industry – particularly higher-ups – sharing my friend’s opinion. (You also see it in practice on Facebook feeds and Twitter streams every day.) That’s an incredibly bad sign. It probably sounds familiar, because it’s the same attitude most people in print had about 15-20 years ago.
The cliff is approaching.
That same disruption (or whatever catchy buzzword you want to use) is coming to TV news. And a person with his or her eyes open can see it coming from a mile away.
- The latest numbers from Nielsen show TV viewership amongst 25-34 year olds (you know, the demo) is down 24 percent from 2010. That percentage continues to grow every quarter.
- The University of Florida released data in February 2015 that show 83.4 percent of young people consider their primary news source as either an online-only news site, the website of a traditional news organization, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social network. Broadcast TV came in at 4.5 percent.
- What’s even more troubling for TV newsrooms? Ask young people how many of them still pay for cable or satellite. Then ask how many consume a majority of their media on mobile platforms (see the MediaShift special on cord cutting here). The answers aren’t good for the status quo in TV news.
When I talk to students in my broadcast news writing classes, I’m shocked these days if even one or two say they watch news on an actual television. All of them consume news, mind you. But they either get it from social or online.
The good news is that same Nielsen data found demand for media is greater than ever. We want news. We want content. But how we consume it, when we consume it and, most important, where we consume it is fundamentally different – and many TV newsrooms either don’t get that or refuse to accept it.
Just like print 15-20 years ago.
The BuzzFeed way.
One company that gets this is BuzzFeed. CEO Jonah Peretti very clearly laid out BuzzFeed’s content delivery strategy at SXSW Interactive in March 2015. As Peretti explained, BuzzFeed doesn’t care where people consume its content – as long as they consume its content. Many, myself included, believe this delivery method will soon become the norm (and it fits in nicely with Facebook’s request to directly host news organizations’ content instead of making users click a link). BuzzFeed then uses consumption data to produce “better” content. This cycle builds brand loyalty and helps find smart sponsorships for tailored content.
It’s a fundamental reshaping of the digital business model. Gone are banner ads consumers don’t like. Instead, tailored content with more natural advertising opportunities.
No matter what your opinion of BuzzFeed’s content, there are two things the company understands very, very well: digital and how young people consume media. You can’t argue with the numbers. Peretti said Buzzfeed received more than 420 million visits from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest in January 2015 alone. Its relatively new video department is already earning more than 500 million views a month.
Which brings me back to my original point.
When all TV stations do is post video teases to Facebook, they’re thinking short-sighted and missing gigantic opportunities to provide relevant content where their consumers already exist. Instead of teasing the story, post a Facebook-specific video version of the story. Post video of some sound that didn’t make the cut. Post a recap from the reporter about what surprised him or her about the story. Do anything other than a standard 15-second video tease pushing to the legacy medium.
A few reasons why.
- TV newsrooms have to get out of the box that tells them packages, VOs, and VOSOTs are the only way to tell stories.
- Teases waste people’s time. Many of us avoid advertising as much as possible – especially on TV. So why invade their social spaces with nothing but advertising? Provide something of value instead.
- Even if someone does pay attention to a video tease on Facebook, there’s an ever-growing possibility they don’t have a TV or cable/satellite to watch said newscast. It’s like advertising a shiny car to a bunch of people who don’t have driver’s licenses. Provide something of value instead, and provide it where the audience wants it.
- The idea that people still wait for news to be delivered to them on their televisions at 5, 6, or 10 p.m. is beyond outdated. We want content now – in some sort or fashion.
- TV newsrooms can’t hide behind the “second screen” excuse anymore. They need to understand the TV may be the second screen when it comes to their content – and that situation will only increase as time goes on.
- Perhaps the most important reason to avoid this practice: video teases on Facebook get repopulated in newsfeeds over the next couple of days. So that tease has a very real shot of looking incredibly outdated by the time people see it. When a station provides actual video content instead, this isn’t a problem.
What’s ironic about all of this is that many newspapers are at the top of the game when it comes to video content in social spaces. Newspapers that survived the digital disruption understand (or at least acknowledge) most of these ideas. Hopefully, TV newsrooms come around before it’s too late.
Dale Blasingame is a lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. He teaches digital journalism courses, including classes covering the fundamentals of digital media, web design and publishing, digital media entrepreneurship and social media analytics. Prior to teaching, Blasingame spent nine years as a TV news producer and won two regional Emmy awards. More information at daleblasingame.net.