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Change is the only constant thing in life, and so is the big ‘E’ in broadcasting

By Shirish Nadkarni

With the rapid audience shift from the TV box in the living room to TV everywhere, anytime and on any connected device, staying relevant in the broadcast media is a primary challenge that all broadcasters need to overcome to survive and thrive. Linear television is not dead, but it has to evolve rapidly or face becoming irrelevant.

For decades, “broadcast” was a one-way medium. With the convergence of technologies, the Internet and the proliferation of social media,  the broadcast industry is undergoing profound changes. Making local news a participatory and relevant experience for viewers and listeners is now top of mind for local TV and radio stations everywhere.

Many broadcasters are bringing the audience into the equation – whether it’s giving them a say in the content, through polls, live Q&A or picking the next musical superstar. The audience is now part of the content strategy —  and audience participation has been immeasurably helped by the advent of digitalisation in broadcasting.

Every major change or crisis has brought along an opportunity, making it incumbent upon broadcasters to identify and develop a strategy to fulfil emerging consumers’ demands. Consumers today demand to be engaged.

To keep pace with the change in viewership habits, marketing tactics are also changing. Consumers are being bombarded with marketing messages from every possible channel. Television, radio and satellite commercials are not to be outdone by print ads, pop-up ads, emails and social media posts. 

Most marketeers today understand the need to cut through the advertising clutter with more personalised, targeted messages in the right channels at the right time, but most struggle with how it can best be accomplished.

Content marketing, specifically, has changed drastically. Diminished returns and readership are forcing brands to rethink how they engage their consumers. The more savvy brands understand that blasting out content in hopes that something might stick is no longer considered effective marketing. They are shifting their strategy toward real personalisation through more engaging or direct marketing channels.

Personalisation used to mean inserting the recipient’s name or company into a generic email. Consumers are now more mobile and elusive. True personalisation is authentically one-to-one conversations. It’s time marketeers put down the megaphones and create a dialogue with their target customers, individually if possible. It can be done, but it’s going to require brands to meet consumers where they are.

With rapid consumer adoption of messaging applications and social media, brands are into a new frontier of customer engagement. The rise of social media and direct messaging apps has taught us quite a bit about the new evolving culture. One important attribute to note is our desire to engage in relationships, even if they are becoming increasingly virtual.

Although we may not ever see the majority of our “friends” and followers we have on our social media apps beyond posts and pictures, we feel connected nonetheless. We may not need to engage in a telephone conversation because we now have ways to interact through texting, instant messaging and social media comments and posts.

“The big ‘E’ in the changing broadcast industry is Engagement, which includes UGC (user generated content), blogs and citizen journalism, where citizens can capture an event on the spot with their mobile phones and transmit them to their preferred broadcaster for instant transmission, even as the event itself is unfolding,” said Andrew Yeo, publisher/editor of APB, at a forum in Seoul, South Korea, organised by Microsoft way back in 2012 for a group of broadcasters discussing how to navigate the evolving digital landscape.

Commenting on how to gain and maintain eyeballs, Yeo said, “Citizen journalism can become a powerful way of engaging people in a meaningful way, and winning hearts and loyalty.

“But it is, of course, necessary to check the authenticity of the photos or video clips, to ensure that they have not been doctored. Clips of Mumbai train bombers in 2006 were doctored, and it almost led to communal riots.”

He also cited how ABS-CBN taught thousands of Filipnos to use their mobile phones to send in videos of newsworthy happenings occuring in their neighbourhoods. It was ABS-CBN, leveraging on geo-tag phone-based metadata, that broke the news of the Maguindanao Massacre that killed 57 people, including 32 journalists, by a politician to prevent his rival from standing for election. 

Today, going live on social media has become the norm, rather than the exception, for broadcasters and other publishing houses.

Newsrooms continue to experiment with Facebook Live. This is because Facebook puts an emphasis on inserting Facebook Live broadcasts into consumers’ news feeds while the broadcast is still going live; it is a smart way for newsrooms to broaden their platform for their breaking news content.

Meteorologists, in particular, have flocked to Facebook Live as a way to deliver breaking weather information. “Before Facebook Live, our goal would be to post a still image or possibly a radar animation of the storm and the warning,” said Chikage Windler, the Chief Meteorologist at KEYE, a Sinclair-owned station in Austin, Texas. “Now, we can go live on Facebook for 30 seconds, 30 minutes, or however long we need.”

Radio newsrooms are also seeing the benefits of Facebook Live with broadcasts like interactive game shows and behind-the-scenes access.

The National Public Radio (NPR) hosted ‘Head to Head’, a series of headline-writing competitions where NPR editors went up against the Facebook audience to see whose headline was most liked. It was immensely engaging and popular.

“Many TV stations are expanding their news coverage on OTT (over the top) delivery systems like Apple TV and Roku,” observed Tim Heller of HellerWeather. “This creates a big opportunity for local TV stations and broadcast meteorologists. Just as weather is the reason people still watch local news, it can be one of the reasons people constantly check a TV station’s streaming app.”

Tribune Broadcasting, which owns or operates 42 stations in the United States, is using social media in a different way for morning TV news – leveraging data to figure out what people are, and will be, talking about.

Tribune has partnered with Dose, a digital media agency that specialises in analytics and shareable content, to create ‘Morning Dose’, a show which features content that Dose has determined will connect with audiences on TV and social media, based on data analytics.

TEGNA, a broadcasting company that owns or operates 46 local stations across the USA, is also experimenting with more original programming as part of its new content transformation strategy. Their ‘Sing Like A Star’ show marries a traditional TV broadcast with digital participation from the contestants and audience.

Hopeful contestants can download the Starmaker app, upload a one-minute audition and try to get votes through the app. The broadcast itself is 30 minutes each weekend, and the segments are tailored to also appease the crowd watching the show via mobile or social platform.

Another place for newsroom innovation is dual-screen experiences – turning TV viewers into active participants in the broadcast via their smartphones, tablets or computers.

TEGNA is also focusing on the concept of three-screen experiences. Said Frank Mungeam, the company’s Vice-President of Digital Content, “We are taking a more holistic approach to storytelling – where the story will ultimately be a combination of experiences the audience has with that content on television, digital and social.”

Indeed, broadcaster’s survival today depends on building and managing delivery systems that empower them to involve and engage their viewers. 

Stay engaged.

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