For WTOP.com, the website for Washington, D.C.’s 24-hour headline news radio station, helping the region’s drivers navigate around traffic snarls has boosted site visits. This is the second of four articles that will appear this week and that collectively constitute a TVNewsCheck Special Report on Traffic Reporting.
Inside the Beltway’s traffic coverage race, WTOP.com has the pole position. The website for Washington, D.C.’s 24-hour headline news radio station lets drivers see their entire commute before ever getting behind the wheel.
This is thanks to WTOP’s proprietary technology feature “Custom Commute,” which lets users custom stitch together the streams from a network of traffic cameras. For the Hubbard Broadcasting-owned station and site, traffic is serious business, so much so that it recently stopped outsourcing its traffic reporting altogether, according to John Meyer, director of digital media.
“We gather all of the information ourselves now, so there’s a lot more manipulation and things you can do to it,” Meyer said. With two full-time staff devoted simply to tweeting traffic to users, he said that a number of potential applications are in the offing.
Not that WTOP is jamming all of its resources into traffic. In addition to streaming its radio broadcast online, the site uses Web-dedicated reporters to ramp up original content over a backbone of AP text reporting, as well as “As Heard on WTOP” breakout features.
“We’ve been fortunate to have ownership and management that has been willing to invest in [the site],” Meyer said, “so we can create more reasons for people to come to our site and have a better experience.”
Meyer offered a chopper’s eye view of WTOP’s own Web traffic.
Monthly unique visitors (average): 1.2 million
Geographic focus: Washington, D.C., metro area
Content focus: Traffic, weather, local news and sports
Mobile platform: Mobile optimized site
Target demographic: Professionals; 25-54-year-olds
Annual revenue: $3.2 million
Revenue streams: 85% display ads, 15% streaming ads, customized programs, some email ads
Editorial staff: 10 full-time
Most popular features: Breaking and headline news, weather, the “Custom Commute” (a user-customized view from traffic cameras along a commuter route)
Media partnerships: A weather partnership with WJLA (the local ABC affiliate); Motley Fool online content; news feed from the Frederick (Md.) News-Post. (The News-Post can house its own ads on WTOP’s page.)
Primary digital competition: The Washington Post — “That’s the one we come up the most against from a sales standpoint.”
What distinguishes it from the digital competition: “Partly it’s our brand. We have a very strong local news brand from our station. We have one of the biggest online newsrooms dedicated to this. And we kind of own the traffic brand in this market, and that’s still a big reason why people come to us.”
Social media usage: “With Facebook, we use a lot to drive traffic back to us. Besides the search engines, it’s the number one consistent traffic driver to our site. We use it to post stories and for discussion. We use Twitter for distribution. We have two full-time people where all they do is tweet traffic information — incidents, accidents and things like that.”
What’s next: “Continued growth of resources. We’re looking to hire writers now and for a lot more people that come from the print world to be able to contribute to us. And mobile is something we’ve barely touched on — how can we grow that consumption model? There’s definitely an opportunity to do more on traffic with that.”
This story originally appeared yesterday on TVNewsCheck’s sister site, NetNewsCheck, which covers the revolution in local media as it plays out online and on mobile. For more stories in TVNewsCheck’s Special Report on Traffic Reporting, click here.