Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May Media Month--Diggin' Digital

A professional from a local PR firm recently talked to me about the range of special news programs on local TV. She's talking about doing a content analysis to be really on top of what programs focus on what types of news when. Smart thinking. I'd ad radio to the mix.

Local TV and radio stations are local businesses. They are affiliates of national networks, and most of their air time is taken up by running the feed of national programming. Where they make their most money is when they can offer unique local programming and sell local ads. There's no doubt local broadcasting does this well, including:

  • "West Michigan Week" on WGVU (which features, magnanimously, journalists from other broadcast and print outlets);
  • "Take Five" on WZZM TV 13 (which I appeared on once with a pajama-clad Catherine Behrendt--long and unrelated story there);
  • the FOX 17 "Know Zone," (a form of TV advertorial);
  • TV 8's local version of Sunday politic talk programs, "To the Point," (which has made me late for church more than once);
  • and all manner of local radio programs, from DJ chatter to more formalized interview and talk programs.

    Sending a news release to the newsroom is still important, but in the modern media environment its best to think rifle not shotgun when seeking media opportunities. These special segments have more specific content and reach more tailored audiences. That makes PR pitching perhaps both more challenging and more rewarding if you do your homework.

    BUT, as the headline on this post suggests, the real opportunities will come with the switch to entirely digital broadcasting next February. What this means for local TV station is the ability to broadcast content on more than one channel, because digital transmission rids us of the spectrum scarcity via the analog airwaves. Each station can have up to four channels in the new environment. WGVU already offers unique programming on its extra channels. TV 8 and 13 are using their extra channels (see 8.2, 8.3, 13.2 13.3) to simulcast programming in wide and standard screen and to offer 24/7 weather. But, the opportunity is there to offer more unique programming. That'll be an opportunity, a revenue stream, for local stations if they can handle the production costs and get ad support. It'll also be an opportunity for PR pros to provide content, in the form of ideas and even finished video. Of course, with recent years' scandals about video news releases, we'll have to be sure to label our VNRs accordingly--and stations will have to attribute them--but there is room for many creative ways for PR pros and broadcast outlets to benefit mutually--by benefiting the public--with a broader range of local information and programming.

    To contradict the old TV announcer cliche--definitely DO touch that dial. There's more to come.
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