The time to act is NOW

If 2006 is/has been the unbundled awakening, 2007 is looking more and more like a desperation year for local broadcasters, a year when new media ventures begun this year need to begin producing fruit. We won’t have the Olympics, although they didn’t perform up to snuff this year, and we won’t have elections, so political ad money will vanish. Wherever I go and with whomever I speak, there is this growing sense that new media MUST be more aggressively pursued…or else.

While this shouldn’t come as a bulletin to anybody who has been following my writing, the urgency I now sense is intense and palpable. Two items of interest today add to my concern.

One, the folks at WeatherBug have launched their own video sharing community, where anybody can upload their own forecasts, reports or storm video. The key word here is “community,” and while the site sucks so far, that’s not the point. It’s another play for the local weather niche by an outside internet company. Weather is THE local franchise for broadcasters, and they ought to be viewing this — and the effort by the Weather Channel to provide local weather applications — as very serious competition.

Two, take a look at BuffaloAtHome.com, a local information portal built by VertaSource, LLC. This company has a deal with CBS/Viacom and has already launched “at home” sites in Chicago, Philly, Baltimore, Detroit, Rochester, and Erie and has plans to launch 30 more — including Denver tomorrow — by year’s end. These are not stamped with the CBS brand, although it’s pretty easy to see the partnership.

Bob Gerow, General Manager of VertaSource told me that it’s been quite a challenge to get the local CBS affiliates to sign off on providing content, because they assume they already have a portal. In the end, though, revenue drives the deals, and while he won’t give me his “secret sauce,” Gerow is quick to point out that their model isn’t banners and page views. Keyword exclusivity and business search optimization are two areas where they make money, and isn’t that just like pure internet players? So while the broadcasters are still out there trying to make a buck off of reach/frequency methodologies, this company is growing revenue the internet way. How terribly smart!

Related to local media, “CBS asked themselves this question,” he said. “Do we want to be one of 25 sites in a market or one of two or three portals?” Who will these other portals be? Googles, Yahoos, YouTubes, or other internet pure plays?

So once again, we have very smart people coming into town and creating applications that could and should be done by the local stations (media companies) themselves. This is serious business, folks, and not to move TODAY to develop new businesses on the web is playing with the lives of your employees. 2007 is just a few months away.

Comments

  1. BuffaloAtHome looks just like all of the other TV websites. Its great that they have a few other revenue models but at a core local content level how is it any different than the WKBW site?

  2. Daniel,

    The point is it’s not a TV website. A TV station provides some content, but that’s the extent of its involvement. It brings radio into the sales picture, and is just a very smart thing to do. And because it’s not branded as a TV station’s site, it is at liberty to do other things with community that a mainstream media site might find difficult to do.

  3. Hmmm.. it seems like hiding under their desks because they a re scared of new media is not helping the situation.

  4. Hey Terry

    Thanks for the response. I guess I understand why not being branded as the TV station is a big deal but I am not seeing the “do other things with community” portion of the current BuffaloAtHome site. Maybe that’s coming soon.

    Hope the move is going well!

    daniel9223

  5. You’re right about the need for speed to diversify across multiple sites. Unfortunately, in many large broadcast groups right now there is a real struggle underway over who will control the territory.

    In some cases, controlling the web presence and image “top town” across an entire station group is wiping out meaningful local branding initiatives and creativity. People watch local news because it is just that, local… designed for the individuality of where its users live.

    In other cases “sales” is winning the day by insisting that the look be designed around pre-positioned advertising banners, buttons and icons… and, oh yes, some space for content.

    There are also group sites driven by IT “engineering”, making them rigid and hard for creative to be, well, creative.

    Of course, “creative” has to get exponentially more creative. That means much more than just repurposed TV news content.

    Companies that want to be successful in the web have to understand that nobody goes to a site to see advertising, unless of course it is a successful “entertainment” element. Nobody goes to a site because of the engineering, unless it is something “really cool.”
    And nobody goes for the same content they can get anywhere else. It has to be “unique.”

    I’m not sure there is anything specifically wrong with being a TV branded website, so long as it’s a brand people want and you’re not trying to limit how your audience can use your site. That train left the station a longtime ago.

    Our customers visit our product, on whatever media, for the “personality” and usefulness of it in their lives… and in the case of local, their lives where they live.

    One man’s opinion. Congrats on your move to Dallas. You’re working with some good people.

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