Archive for August, 2008

The Real Convention Star

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Lots of time will be spent this week picking apart the speeches at the Democratic Convention in Denver.

The real winner, though, is the company that put its name on the building – Pepsi. Add up all of the mentions that the Pepsi Center will get this week in bona fide news reports and it certainly helps the company’s return on its naming rights investment. So, obviously, it’s a great branding opportunity.

But, as they often do, branding and journalism are colliding. Check out this blog by the Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkins (we brought you his vlogs a few months ago).

His unscientific survey of broadcast journalists shows that most will refer to the paid name of a building by its branded name, on the air, whether they like it or not. Why? Because it is the name, and the only name, of the building where the story takes place.

Time Zone, Olympic Athletes Team for NBC Ratings Gold

Monday, August 25th, 2008

If you had to sum up this year’s Summer Olympics in Beijing in one word, that word might be: “zone”—as in compelling performances from athletes performing in the “zone” and competitions that took place—LIVE—thanks to a forgiving time “zone” half way across the globe from television audiences here in the U.S. The Associated Press sums it all up beautifully in this article.

Due to the 12-hour time difference between China and our country, which allowed for daytime competitions to be broadcast live to American audiences in primetime, NBC averaged more than 27 million viewers a night; more than 39 million for Michael Phelps’ final gold medal relay run. All amazing numbers—especially in an era of multiple cable outlets and the world wide web.

With a wealth of live events available for coverage, NBC wisely stuck to the athletes in action. The banter and perspectives of Bob Costas and other “talking heads” was kept to a minimum, in turn, complementing the telecasts.

The end result: incredible feats of athleticism covered with aplomb by one of the grand daddys of the medium.

The Most Overrated News Story of the Year

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

This morning, MSBNC pre-empted its Olympic coverage to bring us hours of commentary on, not just the news of, Sen. Joseph Biden’s nomination for Vice President. The other “news” networks droned on and on all morning – analyzing, pontificating, sanctifying and second guessing.

Yes – the fact that the Obama campaign made its announcement via text message made it especially newsworthy. It deserves prominent reporting. And the networks of course should have covered the joint appearance together – Obama and Biden for the first time as a “ticket.” And, yes, the instant advertisements by the McCain camp showing Biden’s past mistrust of Obama and praise of McCain were also news.

But is there a more overrated story than the appointment of a Vice Presidential nominee? I say “no.” Why? Because it just doesn’t matter.

Let’s take a look at the elections over nearly 30 years. I argue that the #2 on the ballot had no bearing on the outcome of the election.

1980 – George H.W. Bush brought “foreign policy experience” – but Reagan would have beaten Carter in a landslide with anybody along for the ride
1984 – Geraldine Ferraro didn’t help Walter Mondale carry more than one state (his own)
1988 – Dan Quayle as a running-mate didn’t hurt “Bush 41″ – and if he couldn’t – nobody could. Remember him in that debate vs. Lloyd “You’re no Jack Kennedy” Bentsen? It didn’t make a dent in the election results.
1992 – Clinton/Gore poked a huge hole in the “geographic diversity” rationale (both Southerners)
1996 – Quick? Anyone remember Bob Dole’s running-mate? It was Jack Kemp. Didn’t matter.
2000 – Dick Cheney didn’t exactly light up the campaign trail. It didn’t matter.
2004 – Ditto. And how exactly did John Edwards help John Kerry?

For those of us not in political PR, the media would stop paying attention to our news if, after nearly 30 years, it didn’t prove impactful. But the political types use the media every day. It’s time our news outlets start putting stories like this into perspective.

Dream Cruise: Sight for Sore Eyes and Ears

Monday, August 18th, 2008

This year’s Woodward Dream Cruise and its million-plus people generating an estimated $60 million for our region was just what the doctor ordered this past weekend—a fun, positive, family-friendly happening that celebrates our automotive heritage—a welcome and much-needed distraction for Metro Detroit and the State of Michigan.

With 40,000 classic cars of all shapes, sizes, eras and colors presenting a potpourri of eye candy, hats off to Oldies 104.3 WOMC Radio and Program Director Scott Walker for bringing back former CKLW-AM reporter Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor (one of the first helicopter reporters in radio—ever) to go along with fellow CKLW alumns Ted “The Bear” Richards and, of course, Dick Purtan. It made for great radio and again underscores that live, local and personality-driven is the way to go.

It is akin to the nostalgia generated by the classic automobiles that drove up and down Woodward Avenue this weekend—special memories of special people rekindled on a sunny summer afternoon.

On The Radio, Online

Friday, August 15th, 2008

It’s usually Don who writes about radio and music (he literally wrote the book on it). But he’s busy running the World’s Largest One Day Automotive Event this weekend, so I’ll have to do.
In the spirit of trying to keep Tanner Friedman fans informed of the best of “new” communications, I encourage you to check out AOL Radio when you can.

I personally hadn’t been on anything AOL has to offer in about six years before checking this out. Now, I’m hooked. AOL Radio lets you listen to CBS owned stations, in real time, from across the country. Rock fans past age 30 should like Atlanta’s DAVE FM (adult album rock with live DJs). Plus, there are dozens of “channels” in some music genres that aren’t even available via satellite (like “One Hit Wonders”).

There are a few legendary stations, like New York’s WCBS-AM and Chicago’s WBBM-AM, that I used to listen to, on lucky clear nights, as a radio obsessed kid. Now, I can listen anytime, right from my computer.

It’s all “free” (or, as they say in the radio business “advertiser supported”). Take it from us – next time you want to listen to the radio in the office or at home, try it without a radio.

Will Brett Remain a Fan Farvre-ite?

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

You can’t fault an athlete for wanting to un-retire—Lord knows precedents have been set countless times over the years. Yet, as future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre settles in with his new team, only time will tell whether it will continue to be easy, wearin’ green.

Why? The way Favre went about his return. As much a symbol of the Green Bay Packers as Vince Lombardi, Favre had every right to reenter the league—he just should not have been so vocally presumptuous about being handed the starting job. “The fire still burns and I’m coming back,” Favre should have said, “And I intend to compete for the #1 QB position.” After all, isn’t that how it works for athletes anyway?

Instead, one of the most revered football players in NFL history, a man known for his grit and team spirit, came across instead as self-centered and self-interested, reportedly even considering a $20 million offer to stay home and out of uniform.

It is a shame and an episode that fans and admirers of this football legend hope will soon be forgotten (or at least accepted) once Brett Favre dons Jet green and takes a bite out of the Big Apple.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Sometimes, it’s easy to criticize “the media.” And quite often, it’s also deserved.

But, now, it’s time to applaud good reporting – real journalism – that has led to the apparent demise of Detroit’s Mayor. I would post links, but there are too many to post, of Kwame Kilpatrick violating his bond, being sent to jail and being charged with assault. It’s all part of a scandal that became apparent in January, because of the reporting of the Detroit Free Press.

I’m quoted in a Detroit News story today, highlighting the reporting of WXYZ-TV’s Steve Wilson, who had to inform a District Court Judge that the Mayor violated the terms of his bond (the Mayor failed to do that himself, which landed him behind bars). I have written that TV news has a credibility problem, for many reasons. So this evidence of journalism comes at an opportune time for the industry.

While he was begging for his freedom in a courtroom yesterday, Kilpatrick once again pointed a finger at “the media” for “scrutiny” that is causing him stress. If he doesn’t like scrutiny, he should have followed court orders. Really, if he can’t handle scrutiny, he shouldn’t have sought public office. Media scrutiny, protected by the First Amendment, is one of the most positive attributes of American society. May it survive the transformational changes affecting news outlets in this country.

One on One with Lee Abrams

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Last week, we told you about the controversial moves being made by Lee Abrams, as he tries to innovate one of America’s oldest media companies, Tribune.

Now, you can get it straight from Abrams. Below is the text of my online interview with the innovator behind Album Oriented Rock, MTV and XM Satellite Radio. He’s also a philosophical inspiration to Tanner Friedman. He took a few minutes away from the debut day of news at the company’s San Diego TV station to answer some questions about how he’s trying to teach an old media dog some new tricks…

FRIEDMAN: You are working with Randy Michaels. After all of your criticism of the state of terrestrial radio today – much of which he and Clear Channel are responsible for – how are the two of you working together?

ABRAMS: FANTASTIC. WE ARE COMPLETELY IN SYNC ON WHERE THINGS NEED TO GO..AND HE CLEARLY ‘GETS IT’ FAR BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL MEDIA CEO. I DONT THINK YOU CAN BLAME CLEAR CHANNEL ON HIM AS HE LEFT WELL BEFORE THEY BECAME
WHAT THEY CURRENTLY ARE

FRIEDMAN: The message to local radio from your success in creating XM should be “local radio should be local and leave the ‘just playing music’ stuff to satellites and Ipods.” Why aren’t they getting the message?

ABRAMS: THE MINDSET AT RADIO IS SO DIFFERENT. FEW UNDERSTAND THE RADIO LISTENER BEYOND THE AD CULTURE.

FRIEDMAN: How are you dealing with the people inside the newspapers who don’t want to change, but at the same time, are worried about losing their jobs because of the changes going on around them?

ABRAMS: ITS A CHALLENGE, BUT 80 PERCENT ARE EXTREMELY FORWARD THINKING, ITS THE 20 PERCENT THAT ARE CHANGE RESISTANT, SO WE ARE LIBERATING THE 20 PERCENT TO INVENT THE FUTURE OF PRINT.

FRIEDMAN: Newspapers are laying off employees because consumers are “going online” to get their news. But, most of the news you can find online comes from newspapers. Google employs zero journalists. How will this paradox be overcome?

ABRAMS: NEWSPAPERS JUST NEED TO CATCH UP WITH 2008 INSTEAD OF STAYING SO MIRED IN TRADITION THAT THE WEB IS A MORE COMPELLING PLACE TO GET YOUR INFORMATION FIX. THE WEB IS WONDERFUL AND NOT GOING AWAY BUT NEWSPAPERS HAVE TO EVOLVE AND RECLAIM A PORTION OF THEIR TURF THAT HAS BEEN LOST NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF TECHNOLOGY BUT THROUGH A RESTANCE TO JOINING THE 21ST CENTURY AND COMPETING IN A WAY THAT IS ON TERMS WITH TODAY’S MEDIA LANDSCAPE..NOT 1948

FRIEDMAN: Some news is just boring, even though it affects lives. Things that happen at town council and school board meetings, for example. Years ago, TV stations just stopped covering it, unless people threw chair inside the meetings, because it wasn’t visual. In the future, with few reporters and an imperative to keep things stimulating for the consumer, how can “boring” news still be covered?

ABRAMS: IT PROBABLY WONT…WE HAVE TO BE SELECTIVE AND DO A BETTER JOB OF WHAT WE DO COVER. SORT OF LIKE NEWSRADIO…THEY USED TO HAVE 90 MINUTE NEWSCAST THAT WERE DULL…NOW THEY’RE ‘GIVE US 20 MINUTES AND WE’LL GIVE YOU THE WORLD’–THE HITS…THATS WHERE WERE HEADING. WE’LL STILL OFFER FAR FAR MORE VOLUME THAN TV OR RADIO, BUT WE DO HAVE TO FOCUS ON RELEVANT STORIES AT THE EXPENSE OF THOSE THAT JUST DON’T RESONATE

FRIEDMAN: You talk a lot about pet peeves. Here’s mine… We work with newspapers and their web products every day. We hear all of the time from reporters who love a story pitch but their editors tell them there’s no space in the paper – so it can’t run. Or we hear that they loved what one of our clients had to say about something, but the quote got cut for space. These guys have tons and tons of space – online – where most of their customers are! Who cares about newspaper space when you are putting the stories online?

ABRAMS: NEWSPAPERS NATURAL TAGET IS NOT WEB FRIENDLY…THEY USE PRINT…UNFORTUNATELY NEWSPRINT IS EXPENSIVE.

FRIEDMAN: And why does the online story have to be just like the newspaper story?

ABRAMS: LAZINESS

FRIEDMAN: When is this going to change?

ABRAMS: THE WEB IS IN ITS INFANCY…IT’LL CHANGE. IT HASNT BEEN INVENTED YET IN TERMS OF NEWS…WE HOPE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THAT INVENTION. MOST NEWSPAPER WEB SITES ARE ELECTRONIC VERSIONS OF THE PAPER. THAT WILL CHANGE

FRIEDMAN: Tribune is investing in TV news – starting and growing TV news operations. While many stations around the country have seen their news ratings plunge 40 percent in the last decade (something I’ve written a lot about) – why do you think TV news is worth investing in?

ABRAMS: HUGE OPPORTUNITY—PEOPLE WATCH TV…BUT THE NEWS IS PATHETICALLY OUT OF DATE. A JOKE IN MANY CASES…STARVED FOR NEW THINKING. WE THINK IF WE
REINVENT IT IN SYNC WITH 2008, WE CAN SIGNIFICANTLY GROW IT

FRIEDMAN: Local TV news has a credibility problem. People tell me that local TV news is worse than the parodies of local TV news on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere. How do you innovate in TV news without giving more fodder for satire, while building credibility?

ABRAMS: BLOW UP THE PLAYBOOK AND START OVER. IT IS INDEED A PARODY OF ITSELF.

FRIEDMAN: One of the problems with TV is that it still bases itself on a schedule developed in the 1950s. Ward and June Cleaver don’t live here anymore. What are you doing to make local TV more user friendly? How can it compete when viewers crave “On Demand” content?

ABRAMS: WELL, WE NEED TO START BY DRAMATICALLY REINVENTING IT SO THE BASIC PRODUCT IS MORE COMPELLING AND LESS CHEESY. THATS THE FIRST STEP. IF WE DO THAT, WE WIL CREATE OFFSHOOTS THAT EMBRACE THE VARIOUS DISTRIBUTION PLATFORMS BEYOND BROADCAST

FRIEDMAN: Local TV stations used to do local programming, beyond news. Since syndicated programming has dried up, do you see your stations adding more local shows, other than news?

ABRAMS: IT’S EXPENSIVE…BUT ABSOLUTELY YES

People…People Who (Don’t) Need People…

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

If you follow the Tanner Friedman blogs and/or look over our values, you know we feel strongly that any organization is only as good as its people. As such, these individuals should be treated with mutual respect, mentored, cultivated, celebrated. When new people come onboard, we have written, promote them, including a timely press release and getting their web bio online.

In recent days, I came across the updated website of a local firm. This particular company subscribes to a different set of values where its professionals are involved and has experienced very high attrition over the years. Their answer to improving morale? List only upper management on its new site.

Perhaps, (and I’m asking here) this solution saves the web host the trouble of continually updating a revolving door personnel section (?) I would argue these are the actions of a company that does not properly value its people and, if history is any indication, never will.