The model of how local TV news is marketed and created hasn’t changed much over the years. Stations run promos on their air pushing viewers to watch the newscasts on television. Image promos highlight overall strengths of the news operation while topical promos tease the next newscasts’ content, and their minute-and-a-half or two-minute packages. During […]
Stations run promos on their air pushing viewers to watch the newscasts on television.
Image promos highlight overall strengths of the news operation while topical promos tease the next newscasts’ content, and their minute-and-a-half or two-minute packages.
Viewership is measured, and the process repeats itself.
Meanwhile, network viewership erodes slightly every year and local news viewers get older and older.
Yet, ironically, when you walk into a local TV newsroom, you see it’s dominated by young people except for the seasoned anchors and executive staff.
So is there a better way to recruit news viewers, especially younger viewers, without being dependent on network broadcasting, without sticking to the formulaic method of story-telling, and most dramatic of all, without even putting the content on television?
“Everybody has talked for years about trying to change the formulaic product that we produce,” said Ellen Crooke, Tegna’s VP of news, “and Tegna is devoted in 2016 that we’re going to do something about it.”
And what Tegna has done about it can be seen on WXIA, Tegna’s NBC affiliate in Atlanta. But not in WXIA’s newscasts, at least not yet, but only on its website, www.11alive.com.
“It’s been six days, since it premiered digitally,” said Crooke in a phone call earlier this week, “and it has not yet been on television.”
The “it” Crooke refers to is a four-part investigative series called, Inside the Triangle, a six-week investigation into heroin usage and overdoses among young people in the affluent suburbs of Atlanta, pinpointed geographically inside a defined area that forms a triangle.
All four parts were put up on WXIA’s web site on Thursday, February 25.
“We released it online and it has been the No. 1 story across all of Tegna for the entire six days it has been released,” said Crooke.
As of this past Friday, the Inside the Triangle project has generated close to 4 million page views, 85% via mobile. The videos were played 160,000 times, 75% of those were viewed via mobile.
“If we had run this in our Thursday night late news, one ratings point would equate to about 60,000 viewers,” said Crooke.
All of the marketing for Inside the Triangle was done through Facebook (WXIA has 738,000 Facebook followers) and Twitter, except for the occasional four-second TV station IDs, which pushed watching the series online. .
Inside the Triangle began as a “what if.”
“What if we took teams completely out of the assembly line to create long-form investigative stories,” was how Crooke described the beginning of Tegna’s plan to transform local news marketing and storytelling.
“So we took a team, very small group of people, and made Jeremy Campbell the head of it,” said Crooke. Campbell is an Emmy-winning multimedia journalist at WXIA who writes, shoots and edits his own stories.
“We worked with students from the University of Georgia, to help us with how they would watch it, we gave them one topic, and six weeks. And it was amazing what they would accomplish.”
In the team’s first brainstorming session, the topic emerged. “This came from just a small phrase,” said Campbell, “someone had heard that young people were dying in the city of Alpharetta, and it was from heroin.”
It's here. If you think it's not, it's probably in your fancy backyard: 11alive.com/herointriangle
Posted by Atticus on Thursday, February 25, 2016
Alphretta is one of the affluent communities within the triangle area where heroin deaths are climbing.
There are several noticeable differences in the storytelling on Inside the Triangle.
The reporter standups are unique because Crooke said they wanted to get away from “the Ron Burgundy-walking-down-the-street crappy standups.”
“Instead of standups, they called them confessionals,” said Crooke. Often shot with an iPhone, they wanted the reporter “to just talk to me, make it more authentic and real.”
There are no reporter voice-overs to help with narration and you see more behind-the-scenes footage.
“We don’t use any reporter track in this, we use text,” said Campbell, “that was the way to get out of the way of our own story.
“And by showing the process, you’re seeing more behind the scenes, you’re seeing more of the real story, that’s so the viewers understand what we went through to get the information, they see that part of it, too. I think ultimately you’re putting the spotlight on the story and not the reporter track or hooky standup to demonstrate how the story can tell itself that way.”
“We want to be true to our mission which is to go digital first, then to TV,” said Crooke.
“Until it causes such a buzz that it has made news. Jeremy’s been invited to the No. 1-rated radio show in the market because everybody’s talking about it. He’s been invited to schools and it’s now making news.”
Crooke thinks this pilot program to go digital-first with unique storytelling techniques has been a success.
“This was an experiment, and it worked,” said Crooke. “You’re going to see more of this across Tegna and we’re looking for journalists who are excited by and interested in doing this type of work.
“The bottom line is it’s good and people will watch good.”