Archive for February, 2008

What’s Next? A Telethon To Save Local TV?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I’m not easily surprised when I hear stories about what’s happening inside local TV stations.  I worked at three of them and have worked with many more over the past decade.

But, the other day, I heard something that is still hard to believe.

Remember the days when TV stations, as a local public service, would host telethons for community groups that needed money? It was a way for stations to help the community but also market themselves as connected to their viewers.  Those days are over.

One local non-profit told me that they were solicited by a TV station that wanted to host a fundraising telethon on the air.  As a public service?  No.  Now, it’s a revenue stream.

The TV station asked the non-profit for $100,000 cash to produce a day-long telethon including 16 minutes worth of live “cut-ins” throughout the day.  Essentially, any money the non-profit raises over $100,000 they can keep.  What if they don’t raise the hundred grand?  Then, it’s a fundshrinker.

This is an example of how because of a vanishing audience, TV stations are desperate for revenue.  Instead of capitalizing on new media while engaging new audiences at least one station is willing to pass off advertising as public service, going back to its same drying audience well yet again.

Were Wangler’s Travails News?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

It has been some time since a local story has upset me as much as learning on Sunday that former Channel 4 TV reporter Suzanne Wangler had died of an apparent suicide. Though I did not know her, I know many who did. Regardless, it is a terrible, terrible tragedy.

Many are asking: Did recent media coverage of her on-going life-challenges contribute to her taking her own life? The incident, for me, recalled the 2006 suicide of a Dallas-area District Attorney after being caught in an NBC” ‘To Catch a Predator” sting with reporter Chris Hansen.

There is no denying that those that break the law should be dealt with in a court of law. But should incidents such as these be paraded in the news? When does journalism cross the line into sensationalism?

Questions that should be debated and examined closely. No life is worth trading for a front page headline or extra rating points.

If You Look Before You Leap, Why Not Think Before You Speak?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

“You might want to think before you say certain things,” I once ‘counseled’ an individual who routinely offended and hurt employees and others via insensitive and unprofessional discourse. The person, in turn, looked at me with disdain and retorted: “I don’t think you are in any position to tell me what to say or think.”

Watching Mayor Kilpatrick interviewed on T.V. this week I imagined my conversation being replayed between the mayor and his revolving door cast of press secretaries. Have any of them ever been able to adequately counsel the mayor in this regard? Fresh on the heels of the “text mess” here he was spending more taxpayer dollars appealing to the Michigan Supreme Court while telling the media that City Council displeasure with his actions was about “politics” and that “life would go on.” Easy for him to say—and his lackadaisical demeanor while delivering the words did, indeed, suggest to viewers (inappropriately I might add) that he was at ease with this position.

Call it ego. Call it a “power trip.” I call it shortsighted. Whether in a setting that is public or private, whether uttered by a person that is a public official or head of a private company, when you don’t think before you speak and, further, are unwilling to consider input from those trained and in a position to provide it, you are setting yourself up to fail.

Think about it. All of us remember idiotic or inappropriate words and comments, whether directed at us individually or the masses. Sure, we may forgive—maybe. But we never forget.

CBS (Finally) Adds Something New

Monday, February 18th, 2008

I’ve been writing and talking quite a bit about CBS’ experiment with Katie Couric and the Evening News. They started off taking some chances, then played it safe. Now, there’s something new.

If you haven’t seen the CBS Evening News lately (and judging by the ratings, you probably haven’t, you can check out this Youtube link to see a new feature called “Fast Draw.” CBS is using two illustrators to explain difficult-to-grasp aspects of the news like “Superdelegates.”

I applaud CBS for doing something different and for showcasing younger people on their set. But, they need to be careful not to alienate the segment of the audience whose intelligence doesn’t want to be insulted. For example, I worked at a TV station years ago that promoted its news as “Easy To Understand” and the audience, rightfully, let the station hear it. The American Public is not stupid. CBS has to make sure this new segment informs but doesn’t talk down to, its customers.

Obama’s “Love-In” and Clemens’ Love Lost

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

They are stark contrasts in many ways, yet, Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama and baseball legend Roger Clemens currently share a common goal on this Valentine’s Day: trying to sway public opinion. Coming off a string of primary wins that have propelled him to front-runner, Obama’s message of change and hope is resonating with Americans reeling from economic woes and tired of the same old political rhetoric. More, his words are delivered believably and passionately by a man of seeming integrity and honesty.

Clemens, on the other hand, in an idol who has fallen further. His “performance” before Congress was lacking in believability as he threw his wife under the bus regarding HGH use and contradicted the signed affidavit testimony of his longtime friend Andy Pettitte. Further, Clemens’ use of non-sense, double-speak terms such as “misremembered” immediately brought forth images of Mark MacGwire’s repeated utterances of “I’m not here to talk about the past…” on Capital Hill in 2005. You might recall MacGwire was shunned in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility last year.

Where is the love when it comes to public figures? In today’s multi-media world, a more savvy than ever general populace demands the truth, the whole truth and nothing but forthrightousness.

Hannah Montana: Pop Culture Phenomenon

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

You’d have to go back more than 30 years to David Cassidy and “The Partridge Family” to find a pop icon as significant as Miley Cyrus. Born first from television and then from resulting record sales, both are sensations of their respective generations; with Cyrus’ rise almost anomalous to what is happening in hers.

At a time when CD sales are sinking, in favor of ring tones and downloads, Hannah Montana’s record shot to Number One on the Billboard charts. How? Because they are purchased by a generation that still buys CDs: the parents of the kids that watch “Hannah Montana.” Similarly, sold-out concerts and tickets to the new Montana movie are fueled by moms and dads happy for an opportunity to bond with their children while enjoying harmless, wholesome, family-oriented entertainment fare. Tanner Friedman was quoted in the media on this phenomenon in recent days.

It is also interesting how radio virtually ignores Cyrus (save Disney radio), just as David Cassidy couldn’t get an airplay break (save “I Think I Love You”) in his day. Another sidebar that demonstrates how terrestrial radio is out of touch with the “next” generation; something television (Cyrus performs tonight during the Grammy’s) and online media are only too happy to exploit.

A Hoax Revealed

Friday, February 8th, 2008

When I conduct media training sessions for clients, one of the first items on the “don’ts” list is “Don’t Lie.”

In these sessions, we usually don’t spend time time discussing why. Clients understand. For most, it almost goes without saying. But a new case out of Nevada clearly demonstrates why lying to the media can have serious repercussions.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the story of the high school football “recruit” who hadn’t actually been recruited by anyone. Here’s a link to a good summary.

Not only will he never play college football, he may always be remembered as the guy who pulled off the big lie.

Challenges and Opportunities

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

I had the honor and pleasure of leading a roundtable discussion this morning at the Detroit Regional Chamber on the changes in the media and how they impact businesses.

Small business owners, marketers, non-profit communicators and independent professionals attended the session to learn about how the power of the changing media can work for them.

One point that I urged each attendee to remember bears repeating here: While there are challenges facing traditional media from which they may never recover, there are also new opportunities emerging constantly with new media. A strategy that blends traditional and emerging media tactics will enable an organization to tell its story and deliver its messages.

That’s what we are telling our clients at Tanner Friedman and that’s advice that Chamber members and other professionals must heed to communicate in 2008 and, likely, beyond.

Super Bowl Ads Add Up to Incredible Viewership

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

While the monetary outlay by Super Bowl advertisers may still seem mind boggling to some, the ROI is improving with each successive year. Consider: This year’s contest between the Giants and Patriots could surpass more than $100 million viewers. Nothing, not even ratings behemoth “American Idol” (at 30 million viewers each week) comes even close. And, in an era where such mass media events are becoming ever rarer, and viewership ever more fractured, the $2.7 million cost of a 30 second spot has truly become a bargain.

In addition, recent advances in web technology now allow seamless streaming video; as such, Super Bowl ads can be run in their entireties on countless news and social web sites, including MSNBC where you can view them all over and over and over again. Not to mention the fact that the best of the best will be rated and discussed through the day tomorrow, both online and on the air, while also archived on the web to be “searched” out indefinitely.

Today’s multi-platformed media that we talk about often and subscribe to always at Tanner Friedman, truly makes Super Bowl advertising (when done right) a very worthwhile investment indeed.