The online law of attraction

WKRN-TV in Nashville experimented with live streaming severe weather coverage a couple of weeks ago via their group weather blog. GM Mike Sechrist wrote about it in his own blog.

Visually it was too small in the player to make out city names and temps and if you enlarged it the picture was pretty fuzzy. We’ll be working on that. We didn’t promote it during our on-air coverage but at the height of the storm we had 11,000 concurrent viewers. That’s more than a full rating point in this market. We’ll be fine tuning this as we head into the volatile spring weather patterns.

I want to point out a couple of important things.

How, you ask, did they manage a whole rating point worth of viewers without promoting it on the air? This is the web’s law of attraction at work, and it’s something most broadcasters completely miss. The online “audience” is not the on-air audience, and people are a whole lot smarter than we think. They know where to go, because that’s what people do on the web. They discover things on their own and through word-of-mouth.

In this case, WKRN’s has been online for over two years, and it has a considerable following. Not everybody shows up every day, but that’s not the point. It has gained that audience through a steady commitment to quality and service, and it’s there when people want it or need it. In other words, it draws users to it instead of blasting how great it is. It’s evolved into a social network of sorts, because people carry on weather conversations in the comments. This is what I call the law of attraction, and it’s a critical factor in the growth of Media 2.0 applications.

As broadcasters, we think we have to “promote” it in order for people to participate. We’re hung up on the mass marketing notions of “driving traffic,” because we think this is the only way things “work” in terms of creating mass. This is not necessarily the case online, where the product and service are vastly more important, and the viral nature of the web kicks into action.

Ask yourself this question. Who am I talking to when I “drive traffic,” and are they the people I really want to serve online? If pushing our own viewers online is our mission and serving THEIR needs is what we’re after, then by all means, let’s push them to our branded web effort.

If, however, our online mission as a multi-media communications company is to expand our reach beyond that which our on-air brand can find, then we need to consider building new brands and playing by the rules of the web. This is how we “find” people who don’t watch TV anymore and aren’t loyal to any over-the-air brand.

One day, Mike will be able to know more about those 11,000 concurrent streams, and I think he’ll find that they aren’t necessarily WKRN on air faithful. Rather, they’re just people in the community looking for information from a place they’ve come to know and trust online, not on-the-air.

(Disclosure: WKRN-TV is a client of mine.)


  1. anyone know “litllolita” in lurker’s row?

    from what i can tell, the only thing “litl” on lolita is her bra.

    i’m just sayin’


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