Local news stations are challenged by declining revenues and evolving viewing habits. Innovative broadcasters across the country are using Interactive Journalism to enhance their coverage and engage both their audience and their advertisers.
Let’s start with the good news: Television remains the number one source for local news.1 But that audience is rapidly moving online. So how do traditional news outlets adjust their reporting to meet the demands of an evolving audience? For over seventy local stations across the country, interactive journalism is increasingly part of the solution.
In the print world, where the vast majority of the audience has already moved online, the best newsrooms have wholeheartedly embraced interactive journalism. But in TV, interactive journalism is often dismissed as “just a web thing”. These days, however, the most innovative local TV newsrooms are using Megaphone TV to bring interactivity into their broadcast.
“Interactive journalism is something that’s being invented right now,” explains Megaphone TV CEO Dan Albritton. “And it’s not being invented by us. It’s really being invented by the stations we work with.”
21ST CENTURY M.O.S.
At a most basic level, interactive journalism is M.O.S. reporting for the 21st century. On February 15th, President Trump declared a national emergency along the southern border. Immediately after his press conference ended, WABC-New York led their noon news with a poll asking viewers, “Do you support Trump’s emergency declaration to fund a border wall?” Instead of clipping random passersby who may be hearing the news for the first time, WABC was able to instantly gauge reaction from their entire audience, live with real-time results.
At a deeper level, local stations use interactivity to engage in “responsive reporting.” The Pew Research Center reports that one-third of Americans (34%) feel that newsrooms are out of touch with their community. That is because for years, news outlets have spoken at their audience. Now they have the tools to listen.
Albritton contends, “If you think about the history of journalism, it’s been about, ‘We collect the news and we disseminate it to you.’ Interactive journalism lets us know what’s important to the community and even the ways that the political winds are changing.”
Case in point: an interactive segment at WFMY-Greensboro asked viewers if they would like to see marijuana legalized in North Carolina. “It’s a red state,” explains Albritton. “They thought people would be opposed. But overwhelmingly, 71% of the audience was in support. They were surprised by that.”
Responding to those results, award winning investigative reporter Ben Briscoe reached out to state legislators in North Carolina for their reaction and to get their stance on what promises to be a wedge issue in future elections.
INTERACTIVITY CHALLENGES BIASES
At its most sophisticated level, interactive journalism can engage the audience in a meaningful and instructive way. We’ve seen newspapers build interactive maps, charts and games on their website to add a compelling layer to their stories. Similar innovations can be applied in a local television broadcast.
At WBTV-Charlotte, On Your Side Tonight did a deep-dive into the polarizing issue of immigration. A recent study found that most Americans would not pass the US citizenship test. In an inspired piece of interactive story-telling, WBTV used Megaphone TV’s trivia feature to have their viewers answer questions from the citizenship test. Albritton elaborates, “They wanted to challenge their audience and their potential biases. This is a completely neutral question, but as a viewer, you might think differently about people who spend years studying to become a citizen when you didn’t get every question right.”
MONETIZATION: TURN VIEWERS INTO BUYERS
Newsrooms across America are facing another challenge: declining revenues. In addition to driving traffic to their digital properties, stations are using Megaphone TV to create new transactional sources of revenue.
“The idea of marrying TV to digital is becoming established, but now you have to marry the TV advertising and monetization to the digital side as well,” says Albritton.
While some stations may be understandably reluctant to add sponsorship in news, other content verticals such as sports and entertainment provide a golden opportunity to use the strength of broadcast to drive online conversion.
Albritton explains how stations are using interactive sports content to generate business with the automotive sector. “Automotive and sports is a match made in heaven. We see that all across the Megaphone platform. You can have transactional advertising. You voted for, “Who is going to win the Super Bowl?” and then as soon as you vote, there’s a pop-up offer from a local car dealer. Megaphone does a huge amount of work with high school football. Pick the play of the game. Who’s the MVP? Which game should we cover next week? After you vote, enter to win a $100 gift card from that same dealership. The viewers are engaging with the content they like and they’re getting an offer that has value.”
“Megaphone is almost always sold as part of a 360 campaign. You’ve got the show integration with logos and on-air mentions, you’ve got a digital component, you’ve got the social side of things and then you’ll wrap that all together with a spot bank. It’s a package. And Megaphone is helping close significantly larger packages because it adds a cross-media experience. It ties everything together.”
Learn more about how Megaphone TV is leading the drive towards interactive journalism at NAB 2019 – Sprockit Hub in the North Hall at booth #3932.
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