Reboot local news

Many local TV Web sites leave a lot to be desired. They’re better than they used to be, thank goodness, but they still have a long way to go.  Too many sites remain hard to navigate, crammed with news, ads, promos, videos and all kinds of random content that leaves the user feeling overwhelmed and underinformed.

Rick Garner, program manager at AOL’s Weblogs Inc., spent more than 10 years in local TV. In his latest blog entry, he offers ten tips for stations searching for relevance online.  Among them:

#6 Don’t try to be all things to all people. Focus on something that’s not being done and do it better than anyone else. If someone else comes along and does something better than you adapt or do something new. Adapting on the web is easy and costs virtually nothing.

Garner says stations should seriously consider taking national news off their sites. “Posting AP copy on your site isn’t covering national news, it’s being a portal for them.”  As for local news, he says, it needs to be rebooted.  Stations must stop thinking of the Web as just another platform for the same material they’ve already put on the air.

Local TV websites need to take full advantage of posting the hours of video they capture and stream them on a site with a reliable video platform or video embeds. Often, the formats and platforms chosen to host these tools have been poor performers and resource hogs to users’ computers.

TV reporters also need to learn to write differently for the Web, Garner says.  We agree, of course–and you can learn how from the book.