Wednesday, August 21, 2019

More Local TV Newscasts Going Digital First

Local television journalists used to have a single goal: putting on the best newscast possible. Packages were designed solely for viewing on TV. Posting stories on the web only happened after the newscast aired, so as not to cannibalize TV ratings.

Today, however, some TV stations proudly proclaim they’re “digital first,” according to

Ben Bogardus
According to Ben Bogardus, Quinnipiac University Assistant Professor of Journalism. 'digital first' is a term newspaper websites started using several years ago. It refers to putting news on the web and social media as it happens, instead of holding it until the next print run, or in the case of TV, the next newscast. That’s a huge change in philosophy, because it means some TV newsrooms now see digital platforms as equal to, or perhaps even more important, than the station’s traditional broadcasts.

It’s a move showing up at stations around the country. The 2019 RTDNA/Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University Newsroom Survey, for instance, found that more than 200 TV news directors report “trying new things online,” and 60% are planning to build new “digital first” strategies “including staff reorganization to integrate digital at the center of the news team.”

So why are many TV newsrooms starting to put TV news on the back burner? 

They’re worried what happened to newspapers two decades ago will soon happen to them, writes Bodarus.

 Newspapers were slow to realize the threat on-demand online news posed to their business model of making people wait until the next morning to read the news. Plus, money quickly dried up as people balked at paying for content online, the classified ad market disappeared, and cheap banner ads replaced expensive full-page ads. The result is that since 2004, more than 1,800 newspapers have closed, according to a study by the University of North Carolina, and many papers have cut print circulation down to just two or three days a week.

While TV viewership hasn’t cratered yet, the prognosis isn’t good. Younger viewers who grew up with streaming video, on-demand video libraries and social media can’t imagine sitting down in front of the television to watch a linear 6 p.m. newscast, with stories chosen and ordered by someone else. Instead, they want information that matters to them, via the collective wisdom of their social media friends’ “shares,” delivered to them on mobile devices, when and where they want to view it.

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