What should I tell the audience at NAB?

RTNDA at NAB09It’s been a busy week for me: clients, the new book, staff meetings, school, and an occasional tweet or blog entry. But this weekend, it’s off to Vegas and the annual NAB/RTNDA conference. I’m on the opening Super Session Sunday afternoon, and I’d like to get your input in the comments about how I should handle that responsibility. Here’s the background:

Sunday, April 19 — 4:00 to 5:30 pm: Opening Supersession: Leading News Reinvention
Ballroom A of the Las Vegas Hilton

The gloomiest year ever in some newsrooms leads some to wonder whether there is a viable future for broadcast news. Part of the reason for the slump on the business side is the growing lack of relevance of traditional broadcast models to younger audiences. Traditional TV and radio spot advertising is no longer capable of sustaining the operation, capital, and profit needs of many stations. Those stations have looked to change models to support free broadcasting. News managers may sometimes have trouble helping find and adjust to these models. This session will help introduce attendees to what is working in the industry now. (emphasis mine)

RTNDF and Stacey Woelfel Sponsor: The McCormick Foundation
Moderator: Russ Mitchell, News Anchor, The Early Show, Anchor, CBS Evening News Sunday Edition, Correspondent, Sunday Morning New York
Panelists: Kevin Roach, VP and Director of U.S. Broadcast News, Associated Press, Washington, Terry Heaton, SVP Media 2.0, Audience Research and Development, Fort Worth, TX, Lane Michaelsen, WUSA-TV, Director of Information Center, WUSA-TV, Washington, Susana Schuler, VP of News, Raycom Media, Bob Papper, Professor, Hofstra University, Department of Journalism, Hempstead, NY

Communications and electronic journalism have changed dramatically and promise to change even more in years to come. The familiar lines that once marked the boundaries between radio, television, print, computers, telephones and other media are blurred. News is a digital broadband mix of audio, video, print, graphics and databases. New technology is completely transforming the news industry and the definition of who is a journalist and what are journalism standards.

So what’s “working?” Anybody want to address that? Put yourself in my shoes. You have an audience (150 in the flesh, but many, many more via streaming, etc.), so what do they need to hear.


  1. Terry,
    You’ve got a tough job and an even tougher audience — what’s needed and I suspect will be lacking in the audience is a good measure of humility. One of my favorite quotes that I can’t attribute is: “the enemy of learning is knowing.” What we all know has changed so much so fast that the only inspired attitude is confessed ignorance.
    Even a detailed review of “what works” might no longer work 90 days from now — so I think the challenge and dialog should spend some time looking at the local news world from the 30,000 foot level. The details are distracting and resemble band-aids — where is this transformation going? What will the world of local news look like 5 years from now? 10 years? Most of the apparent answers aren’t very pretty for local media — but with every challenge comes opportunity.
    In short — a good conversation starter might be this hypothetical: If local broadcast news as we now know it ceases to exist within 5 years — what will everyone be doing instead and where and how is the money being made? That may be the 800 lb gorilla in the room.
    Hope it’s well attended otherwise — good luck!

  2. There are three things.

    1. Stop saying “speaks out.” It is the most odious part of the formula. What formula is that?

    Controversy Y has caused Local Hyperbole. Tonight, Person X, involved, speaks out.
    Tonight, Person X involved in Controversy Y speaks out.
    Controversy Y has caused Local Hyperbole. We have an exclusive conversation with Person X, who is speaking out.

    I just summarized 80% of the teasers for local news.

    2. Stop telling me how/what to feel. I can decide for myself what’s shocking, eye-opening, heart-rending, tear-jerking, or other hyperbolic adjective/adverb construct, thanks.

    3. I’m not stupid. I don’t fall for your marketing b.s. I don’t watch because you give me nothing but formulaic, intelligence-insulting crap. Stop marketing to me and start talking to me, and I’ll listen.

  3. @ Holy,
    I’m with you.

    Since the presidential elections are to communications what war is to the defense department, what works is what Obama’s team did. It’s all about going past media to talk directly to voters. It worked just fine. Given his approval ratings it seems to keep working.

    From where I sit it’s about telling the truth and treating everyone as a grown up. If the media did that, they might be as successful as Obama. My opinion is that if they don’t, that into the dustbin of history and nobody much is going to miss them.

    I notice in NY that Time Warner keeps running ads for salespeople in Brooklyn. I’m betting they are figuring out something.

  4. Mobile.…mobile and more mobile…it’s broadcast savior .….…..text 2 screen during newscast.…instavotes using text on screen.…..mobile alerts on weather school closings…breaking news.…..pictures sent in via phones..on and on the list is endless .….mobile is the backchannel and makes broadcast interactive today.….

  5. i (speaking in terms of myself) wouldn’t try to tell a roomful of the smartest people in said room much of anything.

    i’d be more curious how each of them intend on being the last man standing when clearly that will be impossible.

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