Radio and TV grow social, mobile

May 19, 2014 01:30

By Bob Papper, Professor Emeritus - Hofstra University
An introductory note, if you will.  2014 marks my 20th year conducting the RTDNA (before that, RTNDA) Annual Survey. First at Ball State University and now at Hofstra University. It has been my privilege to do this, and I want to thank RTDNA, Ball State and Hofstra for the support and opportunity to keep this going. Most of all, I want to thank all of you who spend what I know is way too much time poring over the way too many questions that I ask on this survey. Thank you.
- Bob Papper 

  • What's new in social media
  • The most innovative new project
  • What's new in mobile

What's the most important new thing you started doing with social media in 2013? 
About 200 TV news directors answered the question this year in the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey, so the challenge was coalescing those answers into something that makes sense.  The answers were more spread out this year than last, but the same thing came up as number 1: having a coherent plan for what the station was going to do, why it was doing it, and how everyone was going to participate.  Some news directors talked about developing a strategy; some wrote of forced newsroom participation.  What came through in the survey was a strong sense of how important social media has become in terms of engaging the audience and driving people to the web and on air.
Close behind were comments about increasing and emphasizing postings to both Facebook and Twitter.  Some news directors talked about establishing quotas or mandatory postings for every story or every day.
Next came a tie between Twitter and comments.  The notes on Twitter varied from stations just getting started with Twitter to long-time users simply doing more of it or doing it on a more regimented schedule.  Comments involved looking for opportunities to interact with the  audience.  That showed up as asking for comments with every news story posted on Facebook, making sure that reporters answered all questions posted on the website (or on Facebook), asking questions of the audience about stories or community issues and, for a few stations, putting those comments on air in order to encourage more interaction.
Then another tie between posting more content on Facebook and running more contests and giveaways on Facebook. 
Almost a dozen news directors noted hiring a social media director or coordinator or establishing a social media news desk.
Among the software TV news directors noted: Pinterest (with one news director having established a Pinterest segment on the news), Instagram, Tumblr, Syncbak, Hootsuite, Google Hangouts and
TV news directors in their own words:
"A group for scanner feeds and breaking news."
"Being relentless about it.  Developed and executed a consistent social media strategy."
"Better training for staff."
"Building our voice. We have the largest share of the market but need to develop our "voice" in how we engage with those consumers."
"Changed our website comments to only involve viewers on Facebook. You cannot be anonymous and comment on any of our stories."
"Including social media comments in newscasts on high interest topics of debate - visual display on touch screen monitor."
"Requiring response to viewer comments."
"Stopped just posting stories that we cover and began posting engaging/fun things that get our fans talking.  Stopped treating it like a website and more like an interactive site."
"We are heavily involved with Social Media now. It’s part of the everyday process. Most of the staff has access, which allows us to post 24 hours a day. Specifically, all reporters post all their material each day online, then post links on Facebook."
"We have completely overhauled our strategy.  We are specific in what types of posts engage our viewers best.  We post photos with virtually every post.  It is has been one of our primary focal points in 2013."

While almost three-quarters of TV news directors (72.4%) noted something new they were doing with social media, only 43% of radio news directors or general managers said they were doing anything new.  Non-commercial news directors were about twice as likely to have an answer as news directors at commercial stations.
Those doing something new noted three things above the others:
  1. Facebook ... more, better use, more focused;
  2. Instituting a strategy (or better one) or organization and plan on how to do social media and to what ends;
  3. Twitter ... starting up or increased use of. 

Behind those came more and/or better content online.  Then came attempts, mostly through questions, to better engage the audience.  Among software noted: Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Radio news directors in their own words:
"A more organized approach to Facebook and Twitter as our First Response on breaking news."
"Asking questions to generate content."
"Digital-first for breaking news updates. Putting our updates on Twitter before the organization's website."


All TV stations (that run local news) have Facebook pages.  I used to be able to find at least some patterns in which stations tended to have station Facebook pages as opposed to newsroom Facebook pages ... or both.  But those patterns have largely disappeared.

Radio use of Facebook increased by 3 points over last year, which was up almost 5 points from the year before, which rose 10 points over the year before that.  Other than the largest markets being slightly more likely to have one or more Facebook pages, there was no discernible pattern from one radio grouping to the next.


TV Twitter numbers continued to edge up, as periodic users moved into Daily and Constantly categories.  Most of the non-Twitter users are in the smallest newsrooms with 10 or fewer news people.

The use of Twitter in radio rose less than 5 points from a year ago, and almost all of that came in the largest markets. and at the very biggest news operations.


What's the most important new thing you started doing with mobile in 2013? 
As with last year, more than 200 TV news directors answered this question -- two-thirds of them listing the answer to that question.  Thank you.
New or better apps came in an easy number 1.  In fact, most of those apps were redesigns to better handle news or weather or traffic or other areas. 
A close second involved live streaming of newscasts (mostly) or news events.  Quite a few news directors mentioned Syncbak as the specific company they were using to help them do this.
Well behind those two came increased use of text alerts for breaking news, new site design or redesign to make it more mobile-friendly, and an increased emphasis on specific content for the mobile audience -- and consistently doing it.
A number of news directors noted a change in philosophy for mobile first (and web second) and for more aggressive emphasis on promotion of web and on air via mobile.  As with a year ago, a few news directors said the biggest thing they did this past year with mobile was just being allowed to start doing it.
TV news directors in their own words:
"Engagement via push notifications and improving comment engagement."
"Launching our mobile app ... and a share-it, viewer video journalist section to the site."
"More consistent updates and more thorough content offerings."
"More push alerts that command attention and get you to open the app."
"Responsive design for our website ... live streaming newscasts ... archiving newscasts ... mobile only weather updates."
"We launched a new app which is an alarm clock, offering morning weather and headlines."
"We've really worked to "pin" mobile top stories and put weather front and center on handhelds. We also have worked harder to maximize "alerts" sent to mobile users."
"We started doing it!!"

While two-thirds of TV news directors listed something new that they did in mobile in 2013, two-thirds of radio news directors (66.9%) said they did nothing new.
The top two radio answers for those who did venture into new territory: developing new or better mobile apps came in just ahead of redesigning the website to make it more mobile friendly.  Behind that, new or better streaming or streaming apps and then more news alerts.  Occasionally noted: better mobile and web strategy and more or better news content.

Radio news directors in their own words:
"Access to web content instead of just streaming."
"Being more creative with content."

The percentage of TV stations with apps remained at exactly 87.8% this year.  Generally, the bigger the staff, the more likely that the station had one or more apps.  The average station had 1.8 apps and the median was 2.  That's almost identical to the last two years.  The top station had 15 apps; last year, the winner had 10.  Only 2.1% of stations charged for apps.  That's down from about 3% last year and 6% the year before.
In radio, about a third of stations (34.8%) had 1 or more apps, and the average station had 0.5 apps.  That's down from 0.6 last year, but the median (typical) remained at 0.  Only in the very biggest markets were a majority of stations likely to have an app. All told, 6.5% of radio stations reported charging for apps.  That's the first time I've found any radio station charging.
A new question on the survey this year asked whether the station has a different plan/philosophy/approach to mobile (or tablet) versus online?
Overwhelmingly, 72.7% of TV news directors said the answer was "no."  But the answer varied by market size and size of the newsroom.  More than four in ten (41.9%) news directors in top 50 markets said "yes," they had a different approach, and over half (53.2%) the news directors in the largest newsrooms (51+) said "yes."  A few news directors said mobile and online were different, but they weren't sure how. 
Most news directors who reported having a different approach focused on two key points:
  1. That mobile/tablet and online had different strengths and uses, and that stations needed to cater to and exploit those differences.  Specifically, news directors talked about the much greater depth that online can handle than mobile ... that mobile should have shorter copy and more headlines so the approach to information delivery should be different.
  2. Related to #1, that mobile was heavily about breaking news, short headlines, alerts and quick updates ... without doing so much of it that you annoy recipients.  Many of the news directors talked here about mobile first.
Other news directors talked about making sure that content is mobile-friendly, and some talked about explosive growth in mobile in their area.
TV news directors in their own words:
"Break news on mobile first with alerts.  Post breaking and stories on web second."
"Mobile content must be designed for users who wants to save time."
"Mobile is about ease of reading - faster paced. We need to "pin" top stories so they don't disappear."
"Mobile is simpler, easy to read format, less content."
"Tablet and mobile are more video driven. It's also how we drive social media content."
"We use a very 'on the go' format for mobile versus a more traditional online presence."

Radio news directors and general managers were even less likely to view mobile or tablet differently than online.  Only 10.5% see them differently.  Interestingly, there was no real pattern to that approach.  News directors at non-commercial stations were a little more likely to see a difference, but no other division -- size of station, market, geography, etc. -- exhibited any consistent difference.  For those who did see a difference, most mentioned a greater focus on mobile and its greater importance.  Other answers tended to be widely scattered.
Radio news directors in their own words:
"Our websites are fairly mature and user friendly.  Our apps are clunky and undergoing redesign.  They are not user friendly like the websites at this time."  
"When we rebuilt our website, we specifically made it mobile-friendly so that it scales to use on phones, tablets, etc. The new site also included specific buttons to guide users directly to web stream and donation pages.

Bob Papper is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Hofstra University and has worked extensively in radio and TV news.  This research was supported by the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University and the Radio Television Digital News Association.
About the Survey
The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2013 among all 1,659 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 3,263 radio stations. Valid responses came from 1,300 television stations (78.4%) and 249 radio news directors and general managers representing 649 radio stations. Some data sets (e.g. the number of TV stations originating local news, getting it from others and women TV news directors) are based on a complete census and are not projected from a smaller sample.