More on the Community

After my blog about the community involvement of my old station (WHNT-TV) in Huntsville, I got an e-mail from someone from the Valley who tells me the station has dropped many of it’s community events. Apparently, according to this person, the bottom line has taken precedence. The station has dropped it’s annual “Kids Count” expo and won’t be sponsoring a booth at the Panoply Arts Festival which is one of the biggest community events in that city.

Their competition, WAAY and WAFF will be at Panoply. I would think all of those folks dropping by those booths will go home, turn on the tv and watch the folks they just met.

That’s too bad. As I’ve mentioned Tennessee Valley viewers have a very real relationship with the on-air people at all three stations. I remember some of those events were a bit tiresome for us reporters and anchors, but we all knew deep down that they were important in developing those relationships and thus, ratings.

Viewership at all local stations is down across the board. Could part of that decline be because viewers no longer relate to the people they see on tv? Consultants tell stations to get viewers they have to investigate more, create more exciting tv, be more aggressive, and cover more news. That’s been the call for the past decade and it hasn’t worked yet. Tv stations are fighting over an ever dwindling viewer pie.

Maybe what will work is what worked 15 years ago. Be essential to the viewer. Make your newscast a ‘can’t miss appointment’. Develop a relationship between the on-air staff and the people in front of the tvs.
Be real, give the viewer a peak behind the curtain every now and then (that’s why reality tv is such a hit).

You can’t have a successful movie or tv show without good character development, giving the audience a reason to connect with the character. Screenwriters let viewers decide if they like the character or dislike the character.

Why do you think Survivor and American Idol go to such great lengths to introduce the people on the shows? Viewers have to identify with the people they are going to be watching. “Nashville Star” did away with the preliminary competitions this season and look what happened: the show stinks partly because viewers didn’t develop any feeling about the contestants.

It’s important for every newscast, every reporter and every anchor. Weather forecasters are typically viewer favorites because they are more real to viewers than news anchors and reporters. They don’t read from scripts, they talk to the viewer instead of reading to them.

When WHNT was at the top of the ratings, the station did everything it could to bring viewers closer to the anchors and reporters. As I said yesterday, I must have played in 30 golf tournaments a year and sat in booths at Panoply, Kids Count, station open houses and Big Spring Jam.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

As for me, I had the honor of being the honorary chair at this week’s golf tournament for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. I’ll be speaking to a women’s group on Monday, a Rotary Club on Tuesday, I’ll be at Collierville FBC on Wednesday and with a Business group tomorrow and next Thursday.

I’ll be shaking hands with a lot of people who don’t watch local tv anymore.




Filed under Misc.

2 responses to “More on the Community

  1. Bearded Joe

    I think there is a vicious circle that has come into play here over the years. TV stations have seen their viewership share decrease so they tightened their collective belts and decreased their participation in community events which in turn left them less connected to viewers which in turn perhaps led to decreased viewership. It may not be quite that simplistic, but I think it’s added to it. I’ve also found that some stations used to compensate on-air talent to work at these so-called “grip and grin” functions including telethons but that fell by the wayside because of budget cuts. I think short-sightedness on both the part of management for not wanting to compensate employees in some way for taking personal time for these functions and employees who don’t realize the PR value of “face to face” time led to apathy on both sides. It just seemed to get to the point of diminishing returns when you couldn’t get employees to sign up to appear at these events. Face it, viewers who have a positive, personal experience with an on-air person will spread the word that the person is a “regular Joe” and they look forward to welcoming that person into their home each day. The smart on-air people still realize the value of public appearances and do it on their own as much as possible. Way to go Jamey.

  2. bearded not-joe

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. And that’s a comment to both the previous commenter and to Jamey.

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