What’s Our Story: Making or Breaking Broadcast in 2016

The term you hear is that “it’s all about the story you tell yourself.” 

Sports psychologists, motivational speakers, and business-book writers use the term to inspire more positive thinking - assuming you have a positive story to tell.

What story are we telling ourselves in broadcasting in 2016? Here’s how one story goes:  

News consumers - especially younger ones - are abandoning live TV news and moving to new platforms faster than we are; our stations (and networks) are stuck in an old paradigm with people who cannot react quickly enough to change and do not understand digital.

Let’s call this the “WE’RE ALL TOAST” story for broadcasting. (Kind of hate to write it down - but that’s how it sounds, sometimes).  

Truth is:  The growth of digital is dramatic and developing digital news products is essential, but there must be a way to tell ourselves a different story.  Otherwise, we should all just go work for Google.

SmithGeiger hears from viewers constantly in our research projects, and we hear a more balanced, even optimistic story about us.  While the adoption of digital media is clear and pervasive, the retreat from broadcast news brands is murkier, more uneven, and less intentional than how some portray it.

  • Viewing drop offs, where they occur, are born more out of distraction than disdain - playing havoc on frequency and length of viewing vs. a lack of connection to broadcast brands. 
  • Younger viewers still trust and seek out traditional news brands - not always at age 24 but definitely by 35 - because in the wild world of digital content, viewers are still in search of credible, vetted information. (Network evening newscast saw growth year-to-year in key demos:  Go figure).

The reality is we’re caught between two giant worlds that are both connected and disconnected, but the “old” world of TV news is still our financial lifeblood, still attracts millions of viewers daily, and (right or wrong) is still where broadcasters are investing most heavily.  

Otherwise, why would:

  • So many stations be buying new news sets (in 2015 and 2016)? 
  • So many broadcasters emphasize talent in research - sometimes talent ONLY in projects? 
  • So many stations be launching more newscasts (two 6:30 pm newscasts started this week)?

So, on the one hand we beat ourselves up about not being digital enough - but we spend the majority of our time and money advancing our cause in linear television.  Why would we do that to ourselves?
It’s because we often can’t find the balance, because the word “both” - as in doing both - is not as highly charged as saying, “it’s all about digital.”  And…because we can’t quite get our story right.

We know the story is not:  Stick to TV and we’ll all be fine.

But also know the story is not:  Rush to digital and the money will immediately follow.

The story that will keep us both enthusiastic and pragmatic about 2016 and beyond - and get the next generation of broadcasters as excited as we were - goes more like this:

TV broadcasting is the most powerful media form ever invented and remains essential to many viewers and advertisers:  Who better to engage consumers on new platforms than broadcasters? 

We know how to study behavior, develop new products, train staffs - and develop new revenue streams.  We are hampered by the multitude of competitors with a laser focus in the digital space vs. broadcast, but imagine if those competitors had the platform we have in TV news to convince consumers to engage in social media. interact with websites, and download apps. (and whatever else comes next).

Heck, I kind of feel better already.  You?

This year, 2016, somebody’s TV ratings are going to go up because they’re paying close attention to what makes people watch TV news - using old and new methods.

This year, 2016, somebody’s digital footprint will grow - exponentially in some cases - because they’re paying close attention to what drives digital behavior.

And this year, somebody’s going to do both -  if they get their story right.