Tribune has moved its TV, print and Web triopoly under one roof. Starting today, it’s up to SouthFlorida.Com/Live to transform all that multi-platform efficiency into real live revenue. If successful, it may find its way to other Tribune TV-newspaper markets.
Synergy. It’s one of those cringe-inducing words long abused and overused by bean-counters, consultants and similar riff-raff.
“Synergy” is almost always intended to connote corporate collaboration, harmony, rainbows and unicorns. In truth, it’s a euphemism for cost cutting, staff reduction and the shotgun marriage of whatever’s left of disparate departments.
So I was relieved and impressed that the word never even came up during my conversation with executives at WSFL, Tribune’s CW affiliate in Miami-Fort Lauderdale (DMA 16). At 5 this morning, the station launched a new morning news show, SouthFlorida.Com/Live. It’s a partnership with Tribune’s eponymous Web site and with its daily paper, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. But WFSL is just one place people can see it.
“We’re engaging viewers on all of their favorite platforms, says Jose Suarez, WSFL’s director of local programming and executive producer of SouthFlorida.Com/Live. “That includes TV, broadband streaming, short segments on the Web site and Facebook, and video highlights pushed via links over Twitter.”
To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, “the medium drives the message,” namely that SouthFlorida.Com/Live is designed to reach the increasingly scattered morning news watchers wherever they happen to be — at home, on public transport or in the office. “If you miss a piece, we make it easy to catch up on many platforms and always with a way for viewers to interact with comments and questions,” says Suarez.
All that new media, plus a trio of hip, sexy co-hosts, suggests a show targeting South Florida 20-somethings. Only partly true, says Suarez. “The platforms we’re using definitely appeal to a younger demographic, but we’re tackling stories and features that appeal to females 25-54.”
Examples include tips on fashion, finance and South Florida’s entertainment scene — much of it supplied by high-profile, Sun-Sentinel contributors like Business Editor Ann Vasquez.
But is cross-platform content and delivery a sufficient hook to sustain a new morning show? After all, the Web sites for national shows like Today and Good Morning America strike some as disjointed or, worse, as an afterthought. WSFL General Manager Howard Greenberg sees proof in the profits.
“Our cross-platform selling has been very successful in the past year — and that inspired the format for SouthFlorida.Com/Live,” says Greenberg, who doubles as publisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as well as Tribune’s Orlando Sentinel. “We sell an audience of close to two million a day” — a number that includes projected TV ratings, Web site hits, streaming and mobile viewers and loyal readers of the daily newspaper.
“We have success selling cross-platform ads in virtually every product category,” adds Greenberg, who cites examples in travel, grocery and automotive. “We’ve already signed ‘anchor advertisers’ for the new show such as Cruise.com and Doris Markets.”
Tribune also beefed up its cross-platform street cred when it recently co-branded all its local media under the dynamic “S” logo that symbolizes both the Sun-Sentinel and South Florida. The letter “S” stands out in relief against a sunshine-bright orange background in a typeface reminiscent of another journalistic icon, namely Clark Kent and his super alter ego.
But the branding is much more than a marketing conceit. It’s been years in the making, starting with Tribune’s purchase, five years ago, of the SouthFlorida.Com Web site. The former local entertainment site was at first shut down and then revamped and re-launched by Greenberg, who saw it as a vital tool for building awareness and enthusiasm for WSFL’s first foray into news.
“This is our first news department,” says Greenberg. “Our only previous experience was rebroadcasting the early news from the NBC O&O, WTVJ.”
The WSFL news department shares more than a logo with their counterparts at the Sun-Sentinel and SouthFlorida.Com. It also shares the ninth floor of the Sentinel building, as well as a central assignment desk.
“Print, interactive and TV are all under one roof,” says Tribune Executive Vice President Bob Gremillion, who heads up all of the company’s newspaper properties except the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. In addition to repurposing Sun-Sentinel reports, Gremillion cites numerous examples of syner… excuse me, maximizing shared resources.
“The shared content flows both ways,” Gremillion says. Our Sun-Sentinel photographers now also carry video cameras. Our TV reporters will write their stories for both broadcast and the Web site. And when they’re first on the scene, they’ll also write it up for the Sentinel.”
Executive Producer Suarez is similarly confident that the cross-platform approach will yield plenty of viewer interaction. Today’s debut follows two intense weeks of daily practice shows streamed live on the Web site. Suarez and his team have adjusted the format and content in response to dozens of helpful comments from early adopters.
“If this show works as well as we expect, we look forward to expanding the concept to other dayparts,” Greenberg says. Indeed, this is rumored to be a company-wide template for every Tribune station that’s paired with a newspaper.
While declining to confirm or deny this strategy, Gremillion acknowledged plans to extend the collaborative model to Hartford, Conn., where Tribune owns both the venerable Hartford Courant and WTIC. “Our format in Hartford may be very different from South Florida,” he says. “WTIC has a well-established news operation with a loyal audience.”
(Editors note: The Connecticut Attorney General may have other ideas.)
Market Share by Arthur Greenwald is your weekly stimulus package. Every Monday we showcase sales promotion and programming initiatives at TV stations. What’s going on at your station that others need to know about? Write to Arthur at [email protected]