Radio & Television News Association

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Candid words from NBC 4's boss at RTNA's State of the News Industry Event

At a Radio and Television News Association panel of news directors last night at UCLA, Bob Long of NBC 4 got most of the laughs — and sounded the most pessimistic about the future of traditional news programs such as his. The Internet has cut deeply into the audience for traditional TV news, he said, adding that stations need to embrace bloggers and news aggregators as partners who can deliver large numbers of eyeballs.

He also argued that celebrity tabloid fare appeals to a relatively small audience, and that higher quality news shows in every market in the country generally get better ratings. "It's a myth," Long said, "that tabloid sells more....Whether you're in Peoria or Los Angeles, the interest in celebrity news is about the same — 8%. It's not what you believe, but it's the fact."
Other quotes:
The traditional television newscast will die with the baby boom generation. I don't think anybody expects that form to continue. Network newscasts are dying faster than local newscasts.

In the waning days of the traditional broadcast, you don't have to serve every audience. We don't have to do it all.

What's happening here scares the spit out of everybody in New York...There is available in Los Angeles, to watch English language news at 5 pm, two rating points. Three of us [stations are] doing it. If one of us got every eyeball watching at that hour, we don't make money. We break even. That's the landscape.

There isn't a single broadcast in prime time in double digits. The market share for television across the board, not just news, has shrunk dramatically...That's all about the Internet.

My son, a junior at Berkeley, will never own a television set. His mother's an anchor, his father's a news director, he doesn't give a spit about television.

You can no longer make them come to sit in your theater or turn you on at 6 o'clock at night and watch your show....if you don't make it easy for them, they'll go somewhere else.
(Comments from RTNA people: So true. Journalists have to be ready to communicate in different media and different formats (blogs, online, ipods, multimedia) if they expect to stay relevant with today's short-attention-span, well-plugged-in audiences. Television news must evolve if it expects to keep, and increase, the number of people watching it. )

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