Changes in TV News


Scott McGrewOur parent company, NBC, recently announced major changes at its New York City TV station, something they may eventually roll out to all stations. WNBC is going to change its focus from a newsroom that delivers scheduled newscasts to what the executives call “multi-platform content production.”

Let me translate that for you: “We are REALLY good at collecting information. Instead of turning that info around and placing it in a newscast, let’s send it EVERYWHERE, from podcasts to those video screens above gas pumps to cell phones. Who cares WHAT someone’s watching?”

In other words, we’re not TV anymore.

I happen to think that’s brilliant, because I once said exactly the same thing to my boss. Back in 1994, in fact. I was working at a different place – we’ll call this place “Salt Lick City” so you can’t figure out where it really was.

Anyway, my wife bought me a computer for my birthday, and I signed up for this “Internet” thing that a few people had been talking about. (To give you a timeline, it was three years before Yahoo! became a publicly traded company). After playing around on this new and strange network on my 14.4 modem, I decided it was the future. I thought “you know, someday people are going to get most of their news from this.”

So, I went to a boss with a carefully written memo about how we could use this new technology. How we could send news updates to the then brand new text pagers. How we could start TV station web site. That we should stop thinking of ourselves as a TV station and more as an information distribution point.

He asked “why would we build a web site? That would just make people watch less TV.”

14 years later, I like to think of myself as vindicated. He’s right, people ARE watching less TV, but not because of a single television station’s web site. NBC has noticed and -starting with New York- will start thinking of a “story” not as a TV product, but something that goes to web site, iPod and who knows what else all at the same time.

I have my own little example of this – the TV show TechNow, which I produce, just got its own web site. Shameless plug: Anyway, it has no webmaster – those of us who work on the show just update it ourselves. It’s easy to do. Because the show is pre-taped, we have access to the finished video before it runs on TV, and we made the decision the other day to upload the week’s feature stories BEFORE they run on TV. In other words, you could watch all the cool stuff long before its Saturday air date.

We have all sorts of ways of measuring audiences – I’ll be curious what this new idea does to the TV show. Perhaps we’ll see a huge decline in viewership. I really don’t think so, though. I think more people will learn about the show through the site and watch. But we’ll see!

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter


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