Social first is smart strategy for promoting TV stories

Full disclosure:  I believe Boyd Huppert from KARE 11 in Minneapolis may be one of the best TV storytellers ever.  So, when he says it’s time for TV folks to rethink the value of social media, we should listen.

“I’ve been a reporter for 31 years, and the only audience measurement we had for most of that time was ratings; we checked the overnights,” says Boyd.  “It really didn’t tell us how individuals connected to content in the newscast, and I can’t connect with a ratings point.”

Huppert says reading and interacting with audience comments and posts has changed the way he views content and how to get more audience to see his stories.

The start of his new way of thinking came after his story about the friendship between a man in his 90s and the little boy who lived next door went viral.

But Boyd says the success of the original “Emmett and Erling” story wasn’t quite enough to change his attitude.  When a chance came to cover the friends again, Huppert decided to simply post a picture on Facebook.

“That photo was shared 4100 times, but I didn’t cover it; I made a mistake,” Huppert says.  “I wasn’t listening to our viewers, but I know better now.”

He went on to do another story about this pair that was aired in NBC Nightly News, and more importantly, shared on the NBC Facebook page.

“That story was shared 245,000, more than 10 million views,” he says.  “Therein lies the power of something I didn’t have any use for earlier in my career—generating content that is shareable.”

Huppert says about a quarter of the revenue generated by his stories comes from clicks. Now, he has a Facebook strategy for promoting his stories.  For example, a post about a piece he did on a group of kids who took it upon themselves to stop the bullying of a special needs child in their class was already shared by more than 1400 people before the story even aired.

“Teases don’t work on Facebook, they work on Twitter, says Huppert.  “If you say something like ‘You won’t  believe what happened…,’ no one would share that, it’s a commercial.  I’ve found that I need to write a narrative paragraph.

Huppert admits that goes against what TV reporters have been told to do “avoid giving the story away,” but he says he has proof that it generates on-air audience. For the bullying story, the key demos went from a .9 from the lead-in to a 4.9 at the start of the newscast and a 5.0 in the quarter hour where his story aired.

“If you’re going to tease, you have to deliver, but we’ve always earned our audience by the stories that we do.”

 

 

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Creating stronger audio for your TV stories

Turns out you can learn a lot about creating better TV stories from a guy who focuses on audio.  Adam Ragusea teaches at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism and hosts a podcast called The Pub.  He presented at the Excellence in Journalism Conference on a topic he wrote about for Current.org — “Why You’re Doing Audio Levels Wrong and Why It Really Does Matter.”

When you’re trying to create sound consistency in a story that has a number of audio clips of varying levels, you need to normalize that audio as part of the mixing process.

“Mixing is the art of making all the bits and pieces of an audio composition sound right relative to each other,” said Ragusea.

The embedded tutorial provides an excellent overview of how to do a better job of normalizing audio in Adobe Premiere Pro.

But Ragusea says too many people stop with the mixing process and don’t go on to the mastering stage.

“Mastering is the art of making the mixed piece sound right relative to all the other audio in the universe,” he says, and that’s where dynamic range compression comes in. “Dynamic range compression is electronic or digital processing that automatically boosts quiet sounds and lowers loud sounds.”

So, how do you do it?  Here’s another tutorial that may help.

American Public Media engineer Rob Byers says voice levels should generally be around -15 dBFS, and nothing should ever go higher than -3.

All of this matters to those in TV because, as the saying goes — if you have great video and lousy audio, you end up with a lousy story.

 

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Searching Instagram for news sources

Different social networks seem to appeal to different audience demos, so understanding how to search several of them for content and sources is critical for a journalist.  For example, according to SproutSocial, 53% of Instagram’s users are aged 18-29.

“Imagine a breaking news story in your community; and thinking about who uses Instagram, if there’s a breaking news story that’s going to involve younger people, this could be a good place to look for images,” says Doug Haddix, director for the Program in Public Affairs Journalism, Ohio State University.

Haddix, who conducted a social media search workshop at the Excellence in Journalism Conference recommends Websta as a tool for finding Instagram content that’s relevant to the story  you’re working on.  Websta works by searching hashtags or user names, so you may have to play around with different terms to find what you’re looking for.  Once you find a relevant photo, you can click on the user’s profile name to try to track him or her down.

Another great tool for Instagram search is Gramfeed.  What I like better about this option is that you can easily search by location and time/date to pull up anything public that was posted to Instagram from the location and during the time period you need.

For example, a search for photos from the candlelight vigil following the shooting incident at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi this week turned up multiple photos. By clicking on the user profile for this photo and then tracking back to the user’s Facebook page, I was able to identify where she worked and found a phone number for that business within 2-3 minutes.

The photos you find on GramFeed can be shared on your newsroom’s social media accounts or downloaded and incorporated into whatever story you may be working on.  (Preferably, with the user’s permission, of course.)

The functionality of Gramfeed and Websta is more robust if you link your own Instagram account to the services, but you can get some content in search results without doing that.  Both are free and both are good tools for finding sources from that younger slice of the audience.

 

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Online news video survey says…

…long and high quality is better.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 5.30.05 PMResearch published in the Newspaper Research Journal, “Longer, Higher Quality Videos Preferred by News Viewers” had several key findings:

  • Viewers preferred high-quality videos over low-quality videos. (Not exactly a big surprise!) While prior research indicates that people can tolerate lower-quality videos if they like the content, this study suggests viewers “would not tolerate content they found uninformative, bad, not enjoyable or not worth recommending to others.”
  • People liked longer videos better than shorter ones. Long videos averaged 2.08 minutes in duration. (But wait — 2:08 is long?) Short videos averaged 24 seconds.
  • When both quality and length were considered, people preferred long, high-quality videos to other types of video, including short, high-quality ones.
  • A video’s quality influences what audience members think of a news organization, and having longer videos heighten that perception.

As the Shorenstein Center piece citing this research suggests, there is a perception in the industry that shorter is better in online video; and though a 2:00 local TV news package would be considered long in many TV stations, I’m not sure that that’s what most people mean when they talk about lengthy videos.

This is good research to add into the mix, but the debate isn’t over in my view.

 

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How safe are live shots?

wdbjThe murder of two young TV journalists while they were on the air live has unsettled many newsrooms and classrooms. Reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward were shot to death by a former reporter at their station in Roanoke, Virginia. He had been fired two years earlier and who held a grudge against both of them.

It was a case of workplace violence, which is not uncommon, only this time the workplace was a very public place. The crime played out on television and went viral on social media, just the way the killer planned it.

What does this incident teach us about the risk of going live? Can anything done to make these assignments safer?

TV crews are by definition vulnerable when going live. Reporters are trained to ignore what’s going on behind the camera and to focus on the lens. Photographers are often glued to the viewfinder. And TV cameras, as well all know, are magnets for show-offs and worse. Journalists have been spit at, cursed and harassed by people who just want to get on television and social media. They’ve been attacked by people angry about news coverage and by thieves who’ve stolen their camera gear.

When sent to a potentially risky location, TV crews are well aware of the danger they face. If things start going south, they get out. Some stations now provide security guards for specific types of assignments. But that’s far from the norm. And the live shot that got Ward and Parker killed wouldn’t have merited protection anyway. No one could have predicted that a morning news feature story would end in violence.

Local TV stations aren’t likely to stop doing live shots, although some did scale back for a day in light of what happened in Virginia. And many news managers took the opportunity to remind their staff that nothing is more important than their safety.  But a “be careful out there” memo won’t change anything over the long term.

So what are the lessons to be learned? Here are a few.

Producers should carefully consider what stories they ask to be covered live. Too many live shots offer nothing but “production value” and use up resources better spent on reporting. As the blog Survive Your Job in Television News points out,

Live shots are meant to cover breaking information. It is the fastest means to get viewers the facts. If every newsroom reiterated this definition tonight, that move alone would prevent a lot of live shot photo bombing…and would make it a lot harder to predict where live shots will happen. Therefore, making it harder for people with less than good intentions to find your live shot locations.

Journalists should be extremely aware of the potential for danger on even the most mundane assignment. Choose locations for safety. Let the desk know if you don’t feel safe.

Stations should limit or eliminate the practice of sending journalists out alone to go live. If a two-person crew is vulnerable, imagine how much riskier it is for a solo journalist.

What happened in Virginia was horrific and terrifying. It has shaken everyone in TV news. Let’s not forget it. In honor of two journalists who died, let’s talk about it. And let’s do that in context. The victims were targeted by someone who knew them, not someone who hated the media in general. But those people are out there. Let’s do all we can to be vigilant while still doing our jobs.

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Local TV anchors and reporters share social media strategies

Christina Garcia, WLOX  evening anchor, can be found on Facebook: Christina Garcia WLOX and Twitter: @Wloxgarcia.  Photo by Payton Green.

Christina Garcia, WLOX
evening anchor, can be found on Facebook: Christina Garcia WLOX and Twitter: @Wloxgarcia. Photo by Payton Green.

Like many other television news stations, WLOX in South Mississippi realizes that a large portion of its viewing audience comes from social media sites.

New producers and reporters learn how to write Web stories, tweet and post to Facebook long before they begin to work on broadcasts.

Christina Garcia is familiar to audiences across South Mississippi as the lead anchor for the 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. news. But when she’s not in front of the camera, she spends most of her time bringing the news to viewers on social media.

“Social media is where your viewers are,” Garcia said. “If you aren’t posting to social media, you almost don’t exist.”

Every day Garcia comes in and finds the stories she believes will most appeal to the WLOX audience and posts them online. Using a service called Shoutlet, she is able to determine the best social media platforms for the stories she’s working on and when to schedule her posts. In many ways, Garcia says her social media duties are just as important as anchoring the evening news.

“This is where the industry has gone,” Garcia said. “It’s not going there, it’s already there.”

While the employees of WLOX use all social media platforms to publish content, Facebook drives the most audience. In addition to the station’s main Facebook page, each reporter and many of the producers have their own fan pages.

WLOX reporter Jonathan Brannan is on Facebook: Jonathan Brannan WLOX and  Twitter: @JBrannanWLOX.  Photo by Payton Green.

WLOX reporter Jonathan Brannan
is on Facebook: Jonathan Brannan WLOX and
Twitter: @JBrannanWLOX. Photo by Payton Green.

With more than 3,000 likes on his fan page and over a thousand Twitter followers, news reporter Jonathan Brannan is perhaps the most popular journalist on social media at WLOX. He says part of the reason he has such a big fan base is because he never takes himself too seriously.

“If people can see you acting human and being silly every once in a while,” Brannan said, “then they’re more likely to take you seriously when serious stuff is happening.”

Some of Brannon’s most popular posts on Facebook are behind-the-scenes style videos of him goofing off with his co-workers.

“Every day I’m learning something new and trying something different on social media,” he said.

According to Brannan, timing, keeping things short and staying active are his personal keys to success on social media. He says that keeping that relationship with the audience is important, especially when there might be something serious going on that could affect them.

“Your audience needs to be connected when things are happening,” Brannan said. “You need to build that communication for their safety.”

This story contributed by Payton Green, a broadcast journalist student at the University of Mississippi.

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New broadcast journalism ethics code from RTDNA compared to old

Word cloud created from new RTDNA Code of Ethics.

Word cloud created from new RTDNA Code of Ethics.

What’s changed in the area of journalism ethics?  Quite a bit if the new RTDNA Code of Ethics is any indication.  In the news release, RTDNA indicated that the code was last revised 15 years ago, with this latest version taking a year and a half to develop.

“During 18 months of work, RTDNA’s Ethics Committee considered search, social media, ‘native’ content and other important changes in the way news is produced, distributed and consumed.”

The first tenet of the code — “Truth and accuracy above all” — clearly recognizes the 24/7, social media-driven news world journalists live in today with these two bullets:

o “Trending,” “going viral” or “exploding on social media” may increase urgency, but these phenomena only heighten the need for strict standards of accuracy.

o Facts change over time. Responsible reporting includes updating stories and amending archival versions to make them more accurate and to avoid misinforming those who, through search, stumble upon outdated material.

An increased focus on transparency is made evident by the headline for the second tenet — “Independence and transparency” — with three bullet points devoted to the idea that financial pressures are tougher than ever for news organizations.

o Editorial independence may be a more ambitious goal today than ever before. Media companies, even if not-for-profit, have commercial, competitive and other interests – both internal and external — from which the journalists they employ cannot be entirely shielded. Still, independence from influences that conflict with public interest remains an essential ideal of journalism. Transparency provides the public with the means to assess credibility and to determine who deserves trust.

o Acknowledging sponsor-provided content, commercial concerns or political relationships is essential, but transparency alone is not adequate. It does not entitle journalists to lower their standards of fairness or truth.

o Effectively explaining editorial decisions and processes does not mean making excuses. Transparency requires reflection, reconsideration and honest openness to the possibility that an action, however well intended, was wrong.

The issue of privacy was recognized in a more comprehensive way in this newest code, with the third tenet — “Accountability for consequences” – indicating that preserving privacy needs to be “balanced against the importance or urgency of reporting.”

Just for fun, we created two word clouds of the old and the new codes.  The 2015 code is featured in the image at the top of this post, the 2000 version (pdf) is below.  Missing from the old version, words like “responsible” and “transparency,” “commercial” and “audience” — all signs of changing times for journalism ethics.

Word cloud from the 2000 RTDNA Code of Ethics.

Word cloud from the 2000 RTDNA Code of Ethics.

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How to maximize your mobile video stories

 

In the words of James Harding, BBC’s news director, the age of mobile video is upon us.  So, how are they responding at the “Beeb?” With an understanding of audience demands, according to Nathalie Malinarich, editor for mobile and new formats.

“You really need to grab people immediately,” says Malinarich. “If they don’t like it, they’re going to wipe away or click away.”

She says that “the show and tell is a great example of a format that works really well on mobile and on digital in general.” Walking the audience through a scene and getting them as close to the action as you can makes mobile content more compelling.  She also encourages mobile reporters to dispense with some of the old conventions.

“If it’s a bit rough and ready, that just makes it more authentic,” Malinarich says.  “Sometimes a piece doesn’t need any commentary; viewers on mobile may not have headphones with them. Sometimes natural sound is all you need to tell the story; sometimes quick, improvised video can be the most dramatic.”

She says all of this has “implications for how you think when you arrive at the scene of a breaking news story.”  BBC correspondent Matthew Price breaks down his thought process at the scene of a breaking story this way:

1.  First, get video of any action.

2.  Think about sound.

3.  Describe what’s happening.

4.  Record a short clip with your face on camera.

5.  Publish your material ASAP.

6.  Keep it short.

Malinarich agrees that short is better, but also says it’s not all about breaking news.

“Some slower treatments can work really well; one example of that is the first-person piece.  Documentary styles — making the most of human voices and pictures can also be very popular,” she says.

They key here is thinking differently about this different medium and considering the mobile audience first.

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Behind the scenes in TV news

Producers, assignment managers, directors–viewers don’t see what they do but TV news couldn’t exist without them. San Francisco station KRON has decided to share The Backstory in a six-part series, taking viewers behind the scenes.

“There is something naturally compelling about a newsroom and what it takes to gather news every day,” says general manager Ashley Gold Messina.

Whether it’s fascinating or not to the general public, it’s certainly of interest to news junkies and anyone who wants to be a TV journalist. It’s not quite reality–I heard none of the foul language typical of many newsrooms I’ve worked in–but it’s not sugar-coated either.

The series airs on Sunday evenings at 9:30.

Thanks to TVSpy for pointing it out.

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What mobile journalism should be and why it isn’t

Mobile guru Judd Slivka much of the gear added to mobile devices increases quality and decreases mobility.

Mobile guru Judd Slivka says much of the gear added to mobile devices increases quality and decreases “mobility.”

“We’re doing mobile journalism wrong.”

Judd Slivka teaches mobile journalism at the University of Missouri and says he’s tested more than 700 apps in the process.

So, why is this mobile evangelist down on mobile news gathering as it’s done today?

“We’re trying to use the tools to create TV packages, what used to work in the traditional news culture.  We’re not playing to the technology’s strengths,” says Slivka.

According to him, mobile has four big advantages:

1. Mobile gives a force multiplier effect. Think of a story — tragic or otherwise — where you need to flood the area with assets. Every news staffer with a mobile phone can be used to gather the kind of quick-hit video and interviews that resonate over social media.

2. Mobile gives us a single production platform. Typically we’d report on a camera or audio recorder, transfer a card to a laptop and assemble and edit there, transmit either from the laptop or through a sat transmitter and then watch social reaction via phone or laptop. Mobile consolidates that and reduces time-to-publish.

3. We can go direct to social fast. This is where the brand battle is going to be increasingly won and lost, as flagship products such as newscasts and websites become places for deep story details.  Mobile platforms are built as social tools and can help us get accurate information to the audience ahead of competitors.

4. The app universe lets us build novel content. Content won’t look the same when we build it from a phone — and that’s a good thing. Using a collage app like Diptic or PicPlayPost, still images or videos can be presented in a way that lets the audience decide how they want to interact with the story.  360 Panorama can do an immersive 360-degree shot, for example, to show the breadth of damage at a natural disaster or what a football field looks like at halftime of a big game.

Slivka says we need to be thinking about “mobile made” as a separate content form.

“It’s bite-sized and consumable.”

 

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