AIR CHECK BY DIANA MARSZALEK

Raycom Looks To Expand Web News Service

In addition to servicing its stations, Raycom's 14-person digital newsroom provides stories and other content for the websites of other groups using the WorldNow platform. Right now, the clients are Meredith and Media General, but Raycom would like to recruit more.

In a digital twist on news sharing, Raycom Media has leveraged the 14-person digital newsroom that it created four years ago for its own 34 news-producing stations into an online news service and exchange for other users of the WorldNow online news platform.

Clients of the exchange today include the 10 news-producing Meredith Stations and three of the 31 news-producing Media General stations.

Raycom's WBRC Birmingham's coverage of the shooting this morning at a UPS center ran across Raycom and Meredith websites, including this one on Meredith's WGCL, the CBS affiliate in Atlanta.The Raycom service is available only to other clients of WorldNow, in which Raycom holds a 35% stake. But because of the common platform, Raycom producers can post content directly to the sites of non-Raycom stations.

In addition to international and national news and local stories from its TV station markets, Raycom provides clients features and backgrounders, a means for sharing content  and even editing and proofing services.

Whichever station originates a story gets full credit and copyright on all the groups’ websites, says Joe Rooney, Raycom’s digital content director. “It’s a true syndication model.”

The Raycom digital newsroom, which operates 24 hours a day, can also assist with breaking news coverage, says Cecelia Hanley, who oversees the newsroom.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

“When there are really big situations, a lot of television stations are resourced challenged,” she  says. “We are not trying to take over, but we can augment their coverage.”

For instance, Raycom reporters supplemented the work of Meredith’s WFSB Hartford, Conn., in its coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, and the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 by updating stories across all the groups’ sites and monitoring wire service reports, she says.

Reporters from Raycom, Meredith and Media General can also help each other by covering different aspects of breaking stories, she says.

Last year,  Raycom’s WBRC Birmingham, Ala., and Meredith’s KCTV Kansas City, Mo., both worked on stories about the collapse of a large sign at the Birmingham Airport that killed a 10-year-old boy.

This year, Raycom’s WAVE Louisville, Ky., and WFSB coordinated their coverage of the NCAA basketball tournaments. The men’s tournament culminated in the game between the Connecticut and Kentucky.  The women’s tournament included a round of games in Louisville and a Connecticut win.

As part of its deal with Meredith, Raycom proofs all of Meredith’s local online copy — 1,300 to 1,500 stories a week, Hanley says. It has staff dedicated to that job only.

Raycom isn’t making money on the service, but it feels it is fully compensated in other ways, says Hanley. Working with other broadcasters gives Raycom access to resources and stories “that we may not have had otherwise, not only day-to-day stories, but bigger, breaking stories as well.”

The group is able to “better serve” consumers as a result, she says.

According to Raycom, stories generated by its digitial newsroom drew 5.2 million pageviews on just the Raycom websites. That was up from 3.1 million pageviews in August 2013, Rooney says. Raycom does not keep stats from the other groups’ websites.

Although Raycom has the ability to post and prioritize copy on the sites of the other groups, those sites don’t have to keep it, he says. Where that copy runs — if at all — is ultimately up to the individual broadcaster.

Rooney says the operation “is not necessarily a money maker,” but is a model for how broadcasters can expand their reach using digital news hubs.

Although stations not on WorldNow platforms could cut and paste content provided by Raycom onto their sites, Rooney doesn’t consider that an option.

The three Media General stations now part of the exchange — WNCN Raleigh, N.C., WSLS Roanoke, Va., and WJHL Johnson City, Tenn. – joined last December on a trial basis. Since then, Media General announced that it is merging with LIN Media, which has digital operations that do not include WorldNow. Whether Media General will remain in the Raycom exchange once the merger is complete is unclear. Media General would not comment for this story.

Raycom is actively recruiting more WorldNow groups, Rooney says, declining to say which are being targeted. Other WorldNow groups include Fox, Gray, Dispatch and Sunbeam.

“We would like to grow smartly,” Hanley says. “There is no sense in overextending ourselves. But we have done a good job of maintaining our growth and improving the quality of our content, and continue to do so.”

Read other Air Check columns here. You can send suggestions for future Air Checks to Diana Marszalek at [email protected].


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