Broadcast TV isn't the only game in town anymore, if it ever was. Being where your audience is—mobile, digital, wherever they may be—is a big challenge, but also a big opportunity to reach new audiences.
In this episode, we ask: Can platform fragmentation actually help broadcasters get closer to their audience? What insights can digital platforms unlock? And how can broadcasters pivot to deliver to new platforms, while still meeting the needs of the platforms where they are well established?
Listen to Hear:
- Why audiences are straying from traditional broadcast news
- How the analytics offered by digital platforms can change the game
- Why being "platform cognizant" is so important
Our Guests This Episode
Matt Goldberg is the VP of Content Strategy for the NBC-owned TV stations, where he leads the team that developed and launched LX. Matt has been with NBC for 17 years, previously as Assistant News Director at KNBC in Los Angeles and at NBC Bay Area. Prior to moving into management, Matt was an award-winning investigative producer. Matt was an elected board member of the non-profit Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) and served as Board President from 2016-18. He began his career in TV news while attending Arizona State and has also worked in Houston, Texas.
That's the beauty of digital media, is the data that you can get is so phenomenal... And it allows you to kind of start to see patterns on things that work and don't work... So those are all things I think that over time can help drive platform-specific decision making.
Matt Goldberg, VP, Content Strategy, NBCUniversal
Philip Bromwell, a pioneer of mobile journalism, is the Digital Native Content Editor at RTÉ, Ireland's national public service broadcaster. In over two decades as a journalist, he has reported on a wealth of stories at home and abroad, including covering the Olympics, the Oscars, the refugee crisis, and a rare assignment in Tibet. At RTÉ, Philip leads a team of mobile journalists creating original "digital-first" stories on mobile devices for audiences that are increasingly consuming content on their phones.
It doesn't matter that you are the national broadcaster, it doesn't matter that you are the market leader, if potentially a whole generation of people is growing up without having any relationship to you.
Philip Bromwell, Digital Native Content Editor, RTÉ
Mentioned in This Episode
Making the Media S1E02: Multi-Platform Madness
Matt Goldberg of NBC joins the Making the Media podcast to discuss how multi-platform distribution changes how news is reported.
Making the Media S1E03: Mr. Mojo Risin'
Philip Bromwell of RTÉ joins the Making the Media podcast to discuss how mobile journalism has thrived through, and perhaps because of, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tailoring Broadcast News to Digital Channels: 3 Best Practices
Tailoring broadcast news to digital channels doesn't have to be a chore. Here are three best practices gleaned from digital-first news organizations.
How Millennials Get News: Insight for Broadcasters on Retaining This Demographic
The pandemic has changed how millennials get news. They're watching more local TV news—but how can broadcasters keep millennials watching for the long run?
Craig Wilson: Hi, it's Craig Wilson here, your host for the Making the Media podcast. It's great to have you with us.
Attracting audience and driving advertising revenue is the universal challenge facing news broadcasters globally as viewership on traditional television comes under pressure from the explosion of other platforms. How do news stations adapt their approach to find a new audience, and what does it take to tailor content for viewers who may be watching on a phone or online, if at all?
For this, we asked Philip Bromwell, Digital Native Content Editor at RTÉ in Ireland, and Matt Goldberg, NBCUniversal Vice President of Content Strategy for NBC-owned TV stations, for their views. Matt's team last year launched the new channel NBCLX, and I asked him about how they developed the concept for the station and the way they were going to deliver the news to grab those elusive eyeballs.
Matt Goldberg: In a lot of the focus group research we did, when we ask people why they don't watch local news or any news program, really the explanation was, it's too formulaic.
And I think if anybody who's never worked in television news, if you ask them to take a blank piece of paper and write down what a newscast looks like, they're going to put a rundown together that is almost as good as the producer. They know that you lead, usually, with some top story, you're using verbiage and language that's a little too tease-y. You've got, you know, three stories, a commercial break, you come back, you got two stories, a commercial break, you've got sports and weather in the same spot every time. And none of it really starts with the story. It all is: OK, it's the five o'clock news, what's happening today and how does it fit in that show? And that's really what we tried to change.
And I think part of the reason that audiences don't want the formula anymore is because they're not all just sitting down at five o'clock to watch news anymore. They're watching news when they want to on demand, they're watching news on their phones, they're watching news on their their iPads, on desktop, and they're watching using social media.
And that is really what is driving, I think, the whole concept of developing a story based on what the story needs, but then in the presentation, how you make that story look different to be optimized for the platform it's playing in.
You know, we have a big focus right now on social media, particularly with Instagram. And, you know, Instagram is a vertical experience. Sure, if you go to Instagram TV, you can turn the phone and watch it horizontally. But when we take a story, we will create a different component of it that is a way to tell it on Instagram with a call to action to potentially drive you to our website, to YouTube, to watch the deeper, more cinematic-looking version of it.
And I think it's the same thing for TV. So you know, I think a lot of what is happening is, I think, early on, we saw news outlets sort of, say, take the product, and just put it everywhere, and it's a terrible experience. But I think what is happening now is creating different versions and then on top of that, being comfortable in saying, you know what? This doesn't work on Twitter because, well, you can't really tell this in 140 characters. And kind of being platform-cognizant of what you need to do.
CW: And what does that also mean, then, about the kind of analytics you can then gain about the different audiences you have on those different platforms? Because I guess something that works well as, say, a one-minute package on traditional broadcast might be something you want to do in 25 seconds with some graphics for another platform.
MG: Yeah, you know, that's the beauty of digital media, is the data that you can get is so phenomenal. And you can get down to when it was started, how long somebody lasted with it, when they left it. Did they engage with it? Did they ask a question? Did they complete it? What's the completion rate? And it allows you to kind of start to see patterns on things that work and don't work. YouTube in particular is—I mean the dashboard behind that is phenomenal.
So those are all things I think that over time can help drive platform-specific decision making. And I use YouTube as an example, when we publish our "mini docs," so to speak, we don't put everything on YouTube. We try to put the stuff on YouTube that we think will work specific for that platform. And hopefully, because we are a new brand, we also are trying to create brand awareness, and we're trying to play to the audiences' strengths on each of those platforms.
CW: Is that also something that you see can influence the editorial decision-making process? Because I think one of the things in traditional broadcasters is, you put the show out, you get the ratings, but you don't really know why the ratings necessarily were higher or lower on a particular day, whereas with these kind of analytics it's, to an extent, I guess it's like a virtuous circle, where you can put the story out, see how it performed, and then say, OK, actually we can target more of this type of story to actually drive more audience to this kind of platform.
MG: Absolutely. And we do that quite regularly.
Throughout covering coronavirus, we did a story about the first round of stimulus checks that were being sent out in the US, and the story just—it popped like we had never seen. Last check-in had well into the millions of views. So when you see that kind of activity, and we saw specifically the questions and engagement, we realized the audience had a lot of need to understand that topic more. So then we had editorially sat and said, "Well, what more could we do to get lightning to strike twice?" So we commissioned more stories along that kind of topic line that fit some of the areas we were missing. And as more programs came out like the Paycheck Protection Program and other things in the US, we continue to do that. And that kind of decision making helped drive higher traffic than if we just, you know, sort of did the "one story and move on" approach.
CW: NBCLX is a new station, of course, but what about RTÉ, Ireland's public service broadcaster? Let's hear now from Philip Bromwell, the station's Digital Native Content Editor, who has a similar view about using analytics.
Philip Bromwell: I have to say one of the great things about all those platforms is that the audiences—I know you can question some of the strategies behind them or the philosophies behind them—but they are great for providing you with insights into your audience.
You know, it really is amazing that, you know, if I did a story on television, I might see two or three people the next day who saw the story and they might say, "Oh yeah, Philip, that was great, you know, well done." But then if we publish a story on Facebook or wherever, you can then start to see comments and you can see how people are reacting to it.
And as I said, at a time when we're trying to understand the audience better, what is happening on those social platforms, providing you understand the, I suppose, the echo-chamber nature of them, and perhaps some of the philosophies behind them. But they are great real-life market research, happening before your eyes, because you can really start seeing which stories are resonating and how they're resonating and what people are saying about them. And maybe if you drill further down into it, what's the next stage of the story? Or maybe there's another story to be done.
So you know for us, what we're doing with my team is that we use a couple of tools looking at social media analytics and stuff. We're using those tools to find other stories, to find out what content works with the audience, and we're sort of pivoting towards—well, you know, if we can, obviously your first thing that you rely on is your journalistic hunch that this story is going to be good. But if you can back it up with a bit of research, a bit of data, then it gives you perhaps that extra bit of confidence just to go and do the story.
CW: Taking that into consideration, does that mean a different approach is needed to the content that's being gathered and produced to focus more on the audience? Here's Phillip again.
PB: I think many news organizations are guilty of thinking, "Well, we know what the audience wants." Whereas what we have tried to do is use some tools to try and better understand what the audience actually wants. By doing those stories which are off-diary, we're not in conflict with anyone else, but we're also delivering original stories which wouldn't have been gotten otherwise.
And then what we're doing is we're basically making them available to whoever wants them. So we do stories for television, for radio, for online, for social media, and we try and optimize those stories for wherever they're going, so that we give the audience the best experience of the story.
So that means—obviously it's very simple, if you're doing a TV story, you do the TV story. If you're doing the radio story, you do the radio story. But if you're doing a story for online or social media, you might have to think about, well, do we need to have subtitles? What aspect ratio are we putting it in? Because one thing we know from all the research that's out there is that increasingly, the audience generally is accessing news first and foremost on mobile devices.
What my team is about, like I said, it's about finding original stories, and just getting them out there, and as I said, just making sure that wherever they're landing, they're landing in the right form, so that the audience can appreciate them on their terms. You know, it's about delivering content wherever, whenever the audience wants it these days. So that means a lot of the work we do is we could end up doing four or five different versions of the same story, which is a bit laborious and maybe at the end of it you've fallen a bit out of love with the story, but unfortunately, for news professionals, I think that's the reality of the industry today.
The audience is really fragmented. It's not necessarily as loyal as it once was. We do it ourselves. We are all guilty of—we have such short attention spans that we'll easily move on from a story without giving it perhaps the attention it needs or deserves, but that's just how we have evolved as humans. So we have to kind of appreciate that the audience has changed. We've got to realize that technology is changing all the time. And we've just go to try and, I suppose, get on board with that and realize that that's the challenge for us as as news gatherers, as storytellers.
CW: I guess as well, as an organization like RTÉ, reach is what is so important. It is about reaching different parts of the audience. And the fact that you're able to do that and to tailor the delivery of content to different audiences is actually, I think it's a fundamental thing. It's one of the big challenges I think traditional broadcast journalism has and will continue to face in the future.
PB: A few times a year I will go into college courses here or university courses here to do a guest lecture, and I always start with kind of an icebreaker question, which is—and the first time I did it, I did it as a bit of market research, and now I do it just to confirm the market research. But I basically ask the students in the class who, let's face it, probably are late teens, early twenties at best. And they all know that Phillip Bromwell is coming to speak to them today, and Philip Bromwell works for RTÉ News, and yeah, you may have seen him on the news, on the Six One News, they know my background.
I go in there and say, "OK guys, you're all journalism students. You all want a career in the industry. How many of you watched the TV news last night?" And you're lucky if you get one or two hands going up. And then you say, "Well, how many of you listened to the flagship RTÉ radio program this morning?" And again, it's like a desert of hands. And then obviously, you say, "Well, how many of you read a newspaper?" Well, nobody's read a newspaper now for several years. So you then kind of drill down: "So where are you getting your news?"
What you find when you do that kind of conversation in a classroom, particularly with younger people, is that they are not—it doesn't matter that you are the national broadcaster, it doesn't matter that you are the market leader, if potentially a whole generation of people is growing up without having any relationship to you.
And yes, there may be a point where those people grow older and they gravitate back to the national broadcaster. Maybe that happens, but nobody knows that, because we don't know what's coming down the track. We don't know how audience behavior is going to change again.
It's very rare nowadays that there's a story that impacts everyone, that everybody sees. What you have to do is provide a range of content and put it in a range of different places. And as I said, make sure it's optimized for wherever the audience is so that they get the best experience from it. And that's where you try to get that reach and you try to make sure that you are reaching every part of the audience.
I mean, that's one of the fundamental requirements of a public service organization. You've got to be where the audience is. And like I said, RTÉ now has a very—well, it's there in black and white, to deliver content wherever and whenever the audience wants it.
So it's kind of accepting that the model of delivering the news from years gone by, which was the idea of, "Here's the news at six o'clock in the evening, and now we're going to tell you everything that you need to know," you know, that doesn't really work anymore. So we've got to, I suppose, provide a much more diverse range of content, increasingly distributing it all over the place. And it's enormously challenging.
CW: And that challenge is universal. Let's get a final thought from Matt.
MG: Look, we always want to try to achieve stories that we can get the most bang for our buck out of and be on multiple platforms, be on them all. But very early on, the discussion is—you know, usually our story ideas, particularly from our storytellers, start with a passion of their own that they see. I mean, we assign plenty of projects, but it starts with that inquisitive idea, that thought of trying to get to the why of something. And in our kickoff to how that story should be approached we'll have discussions, literally before a frame of video is shot, of "OK, how are we going to tell this story on television? How are we going to tell this story on Facebook? How would we go about telling this story on Twitter and Instagram? What do we do different on YouTube?"
So those are all a part of it, because as you're gathering a story, whether you're doing it on your laptop at home or you're out in the field, knowing that you have an objective of how you're going to produce something for vertical video, you may make that decision, "OK, I interviewed this person, but now I'm going to shoot some stuff vertically so that I have it, or I might use my cinematic camera, but shoot it in a way so that I can take the 2:3 image and the 16:9 image at the same end." And so I think all of that definitely becomes a part of the formula of when you go out to produce.
CW: All in all, it's definitely a challenging landscape for news broadcasters to address.
Thanks to Matt and Phillip for joining us this week. And if you haven't already heard them, you can listen to the previous episodes of the podcast where they joined us. Matt gave us his thoughts on how multiplatform delivery is changing how news is reported, while Philip went into the details of shooting and producing news on mobile devices. They are a couple of really great episodes with lots of good information. You can check out the episodes via your own podcast platform of choice, of course, or go to avid.com/makingthemedia for all the other information. Now you can also get links in the show notes for those episodes along with some informative articles on tailoring news for digital outlets and also looking at how younger audiences are getting their news.
Next time on the podcast we delve into the world of artificial intelligence and look at what it can offer newsrooms as a tool both for newsgathering and also for distribution. In this episode I'm joined by Oxford University researcher Felix Simon. Let's hear a little preview.
Felix Simon: With a tool that you have not developed in house, which comes from someone else, basically a black box which you don't really understand how it's working, especially in the case of AI, how it's arriving at decisions, it ultimately arises that this is sort of this opaque thing, which you don't really understand and which potentially has ethical problems baked in. Bias for instance, is always a massive concern in AI, and rightly so. There might be data violations, security issues, all these things. What happens to, say, my own data? Is it safe? Will it be protected? I think these are legitimate concerns news organizations have when they rely on proprietary products. And of course, that is also the case when it comes to AI. So of course there's this business interest in it, if it exists, if it's already built, if it's for something I can use right away, great, but of course they also have to think about the other side of the medal.
CW: That is such an interesting topic to explore.
Now, as always, thanks again for listening. Don't forget to get in touch with us either on social media—my username is @craigaw1969—or email us at the address firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course, please leave a review or share the podcast with your friends and colleagues.
All that's left for me to do is thank you again for listening. Thanks to our producer Rachel Haberman. I'm Craig Wilson. Join me next time for more making the media.