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Mark Atwood
A local TV news company that just might survive the Internet
One of my gigs in the past few months was a company that own a number of TV stations in a certain regional market. (No, not ClearChannel.)

My job was teaching them how to scale out a website that was very popular, and getting more so. It looks like several dozens of sites, each with a different URL, different branding, different style sheet, and superficially different structure. But under the hood, they were all the same site, and about to be coming even more so.

What this site does is interesting. It's the morgue and archive of all their news stations, exposed to the public. Each station's local news stations video content, with transcripts and metadata, along with user contributed videos, and user comments. The only real difference under the hood between "official" content and the user content was the byline. Basically, they are running their own YouTube, and letting the viewers participate.

This working model is very shocking to this industry, and was hard to swallow even by some of the technical people I was meeting with.

All of this is interesting, but is only leadup to what I really impressed me.

They realized that "the competition" wasn't other TV stations. In fact, in some markets they directly and indirectly controlled both halves of the legally mandated duopoly. The competition was YouTube and local news blogs.

And they learned that their least popular video content were not the glossy edited "news program segments", filled with "journalistic" "context" voiced in by their "reporters". The most popular content was the raw footage, unedited, and often without sound. Second place was the user videos, and in a distant third was the edited "news program segments", filled full of edits and "journalistic" "context" voiced in by their "reporters".

Another interesting bit was that the site was starting to feed back to the stations. If something newsworthy happens, and some local bystander happens to catch it on their camera or phone, and uploads it to the site, they may use that video on the broadcast, instead of sending out a "professional" news crew.

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