I’ve been off the “blog runway” for the past year while working at Fox 29 in Philly. There are a variety reasons – the number one was I was just plain busy and crazed. But I’ve decided to make a career change.
I love the newsroom, but I love my new job even more: Vice President of Digital Strategies for a company called Crawford Johnson & Northcott. We consult with TV stations and media companies all over the country. One of my key responsibilities is to help mdeia properties maximize the various digital platforms.
It’s a “space” many of us in the business have just worked to maintain, not grow. But we have to. You can see the change happening in front of us.
For many of us in the business we work and live in a newsroom. I often say we work inside a bubble, with several TVs blaring what others are reporting, constant access to wires providing us info before most people are even aware, and constantly cruising digital platforms like websites, Facebook pages, YouTube and Twitter looking for “new” news.
But in many newsrooms we fail to recognize that digital platforms now truly impact our consumers, our “viewsers.” Take for example Twitter. We say we get it, but sometimes I worry if our staffs really do. How many of you have a Twitter account? Do you follow news organizations including your station? Do you check your feed regularly? (If you answered no to any of these then you may want to make some changes. You watch and critique your newscasts. Why wouldn’t you monitor your digital feeds?)
We need to spend more time as journalists, curators of news and information, and as users watching and understanding what and how the real world consumes.
I always look to my wife as my unofficial “focus group.”
I remember the ”good old days” when I would be with my family and get a page to call the desk, or email or, these days, a text or direct message from the newsroom telling me about a breaking story. My wife and kids would ask me what was going on, and the kids would even chime in with their coverage suggestions. (Often times they were right.) When friends and family were over, you were the “go to” person for what was happening in the world. But those days are waning.
Here’s the new reality of news consumption from my wife’s perspective.
A year ago she got an iPhone. I had to nudge her to get it. Now it’s become an indispensable tool – not for the dial tone but for social media, news access and a couple of word games.
She recently signed up for Twitter. She wants news and info when she wants it, no matter where she is. I am no longer her source. The days of me knowing something before others have diminished. She started following my station and would often tell me things we were covering or developments before I knew them – courtesy of Twitter. I consider her the average Twitter user. She doesn’t tweet or retweet. She doesn’t follow many people. For her it’s a tool. A tool our local news consumers are using.
Is she on Facebook? Absolutely, but for her Facebook is a tool for gathering social information and connecting to family and friends.
Twitter is a news service. She can check in and out quickly with minimal friction.
I grew up in NYC where we had an all news radio station. “Give us 22 minutes, and we will give you the world.” Today, give the viewer 140 characters, and they’re in touch and feel totally connected. But you want them to connect with you.
Newsrooms need to understand this. Often times I see stations tweet sporadic bursts of info or use it strictly for promotion. We may assume the user is following multiple news sources like we’re used to following in the newsroom. That’s a mistake. You need to be their “complete source” and have a newsroom strategy and tactics to connect with your users. You need to constantly provide a stream of major stories – local, national and even international if it impacts your user. And that’s where we’re going to help our clients – better serving our growing “viewsers” on their digital platforms.
Research about how our “viewsers” consume – how, what and where is absolutely critical. The days of going with your gut are gone. We need to be as aggressive on understanding our consumers as we would be aggressive covering a story including providing critical updates as a story unfolds.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schwaid, on Facebook at Facebook.com/sschwaid and Pinterest at Pinterest.com/Schwaid.
You can follow our company at CJNI.com