Social media and new skills needed in local TV

If you’re working in television, you already know this –local television stations are no longer just in the business of TV. But RTDNA researcher Bob Papper has the statistics to back it up.

Speaking at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Papper reported that 75% of local TV stations provide content to places other than their own air, mobile or Web properties.  Local radio stations were the most common beneficiaries of this content, with 43% of TV stations reporting that they provide content for radio.

When it comes to disseminating content, 82% have a “3-screen approach,” including television, Web and mobile.  This year’s survey shows an even split on whether tablet devices make screen No. 4, or if tablets are just part of mobile.  Regardless, Papper says he’s seeing the distribution of local news evolving in a different way this year.

“For local news stations now, it’s not more content on more venues,” Papper says.  “It’s now strengthening and broadening audience with social media.”

In fact, every TV station in the survey had at least one Facebook page and 94% report  being involved with Twitter – half  of them “constantly.”  So, how are stations using social media?

According to Papper most stations use social media for story leads and story follow up, with a shift away from social media as a purely promotional tool.  When they do promote content via social media, it’s usually a promotion for the station’s website, rather than the on-air product.

In addition, stations are soliciting and running Facebook comments on the air, conducting polls and running social media contests, such a “Facebook Friend of the Day” competition.  And if you’re addicted to social media yourself, that could be good for your career — a significant number of stations in the survey noted hiring social media producers or reporters.

Web staffs at TV stations are also growing, but they make up a relatively small number of station personnel.  The average number of people on the Web staff has gone from one full-time employee to two.  Papper’s study also found that 79% of TV staffers have some Web responsibilities, and 25% of the content on a TV station website is unique, meaning it never appears on the station’s broadcasts at all.

“One thing to note, there’s been a shift in who is in charge of station websites, a shift away from news directors,” Papper says.  The research presented didn’t indicate who is running the show, but it may be that the Web is now important enough to have its own management structure within the TV station.

TV stations still make most of their money from on-air ads (85%) with just 6% of revenue coming from online.  According to Papper, “Mobile is so low now that it doesn’t register.”

Papper says, though TV is not “safe forever” from the ills that have hit the newspaper industry, he is optimistic about the future.

“TV makes money, news continues to make money, stations are betting more on news,” said Papper.  “The investments are in people with new media skills.”