At the Belo CBS affiliate in San Antonio, Jan Boyd, the station’s digital media director, wants KENS5.com to have a separate editorial focus while still supporting and supplementing the station’s on-air content. “[T]here is a different audience on the Web than TV. We try to have a definite personality.”
In a market where 18% of the population has ties to the military, the digital team at Belo’s CBS affiliate KENS San Antonio marked Veterans Day last week by rolling out a Web-exclusive series, Seven Days in Military City, USA.
Over the course of six days starting on the holiday, KENS5.com posted the seven-part multimedia series focusing on issues of interest to the military community in the country’s 36th largest market.
The series — using video, photo slideshows and written stories — included stories about the “wounded warriors” who for the second year rode bikes 500 miles across Texas; homeless veterans who reportedly make up nearly one-quarter of the homeless in San Antonio counted as head of households; and Tim Williams, a veteran who now is a maintenance crew work leader at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery, the country’s seventh busiest national cemetery.
“Seven Days in Military City is a project that went above and beyond in the social media/multimedia category for both TV and print here in San Antonio,” says Donna Tuttle, an editor at the San Antonio Business Journal and an observer of the local digital media scene. “Instead of a few typical Veterans Day Web pieces and parade slideshows, the station gave a 4-D picture of what the military and veterans look like in this region.”
The series was filmed, photographed, written and posted entirely by KENS5.com’s four-person digital content-creation team, says Jan Boyd, the station’s director of digital media.
It reflects Boyd’s vision of a TV station website that has its own editorial voice while still meeting its obligations of supporting, and supplementing, on-air content.
“The purpose is to do stuff that really reflects San Antonio, but there is a different audience on the Web than TV. We try to have a definite personality,” Boyd says.
That personality, Boyd adds, is sometimes serious, but sometimes noticeably lighter than you’d find on TV. The headline “Who’s Your Mama?” topped a recent article about fertility and egg donation, for example. One Web story featured a groomer who made dogs look like other kinds of animals. Another grew from a newsroom conversation about favorite snacks.
“It definitely is an extension of the brand, but even some days in the office are casual Friday,” says Boyd, likening the website to “a multimedia magazine.”
That approach has garnered accolades from the industry. The site was won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence and two Lone Star Emmy awards, as well as 10 or so Houston Press Club awards, she said.
In addition to Web-exclusive coverage of San Antonio events and other features, the KENS5.com team produces about two enterprise stories a month, Boyd says. The top story on a newscast is not always the lead story online. On the other hand, the digital team also continues to build on the stories covered on air for lengthy periods of time.
The station reports having about 7.3 million page views and 1 million unique visitors across platforms in October.
“Focusing attention on your digital properties to make sure they have the right content unique to that platform is a good thing and not enough broadcasters do that,” says Jaime Spencer, a Magid Associates VP. “Too often it’s a delayed manifestation of their newscast and a few breaking stories.”
Spencer says original Web content like Seven Days in Military City is hardly the norm. “That kind of dedication is ahead of the curve. I see very little differentiation [among websites] across the entire broadcast landscape, what they look like and how they break news,” he says. “When you look at 213 markets and one to five sites in each of those markets, most of them are created by the same three people and have a similar work flow that fuels it.”
But “uniqueness for the sake of uniqueness” doesn’t always mean success on the business side. “You can do a lot of stuff that’s original journalism. But what’s the return on your investment?” Spencer says.
Jon Bailey, KENS Internet sales manager, says that at least for KENS the investment is paying off. He would not disclose how much money KENS5.com brings in to the station, other than to say the company’s “goal” is to have it produce 7%-8% of the station’s revenue.
But Bailey did say that the website is garnering more attention from local and national advertisers than it did when he joined KENS in January.
From a sales perspective, KENS5.com’s viability has changed dramatically from its start four years ago, when it scored in the bottom tier of TV station websites, he said. Now the site consistently ranks No. 1 or 2 among broadcasters’ sites in the market (Post-Newsweek’s ABC affiliate KSAT is its main competitor) and it’s on the radar of a host of national agencies and companies, as well as local businesses, he adds.
Digital sales reach far and wide, with options ranging from online display ads to mobile ads, sponsoring text messages or certain sections of the website, video and email targeting.
“We will jam as much as we can into pixels,” Boyd says. “And in the process we are building audience and that’s what we’ll sell. We have that additional content and we can do things in a different way.”
Working in San Antonio is a big help too, sincethe market is particularly rich in news and events worth covering, she says. “San Antonio is great because you can have a party and everyone shows up.”