Local TV finally “getting” online

The State of the News Media 2008 is out and it contains plenty of good news for those who care about local broadcast journalism. Financially, the report indicates that TV stations are doing well and that means newsrooms budgets are going up, too. However, it also indicates that the only staff growth can be attributed to TV stations adding online employees and that broadcasters are getting more focused on the Web. The report goes on to highlight a couple of online innovations:

Hearst-Argyle, one of the top 10 largest broadcast companies in terms of revenue, was one of the few to take the lead in Web development. With 26 stations across the nation, all of which offer online-only local content, the company reported a 29% growth in Web traffic in 2006. In June 2007, Hearst-Argyle entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with YouTube, the online video-sharing phenomenon owned by Google.

Hearst stations now each have a dedicated channel on YouTube where they stream local news, sports and weather information. The report indicates this is the first time a TV station has been paid by YouTube for content, but no one is saying how much.

The other big change involves mobile delivery:

In April 2007, local stations joined forces to take advantage of two growing trends — the rise in cell phone use and the impending shift to digital television. The Open Mobile Video Coalition was formed with a mandate to bring over-the-air broadcast programming to mobile phones and other hand-held devices by February 2009, the month that stations switch over to digital transmission.

The report says the coalition includes about 800 local stations with a goal of using the digital TV spectrum to “transmit live video and data, without being limited to cellular networks.” The hope is this will create a new source of revenue for local TV stations.

The report is rich in detail; in future posts we’ll explore the idea that news is now more of a service than a product and that news organizations should be thinking of themselves more as “gateways” to information rather than “final destinations.”