In Monday's Wall Street Journal there was an article called Local TV Stations Struggle to Adapt as Web Grabs Viewers, Revenue which I found very interesting, if not for the very long title. Basically it talks about how buying a local TV station is not as cracked up as it used to be as the web has grabbed viewership, especially from the local news segment.
In the past, people got their news from their local TV station (6PM or 11PM) which is relatively cheap to produce while using the main programming to grab viewership. You remember that model right? Watch Law and Order and then stick around to check out the news and weather. How many of you can still name your favorite weather person or sports caster (Let's go to the video tape).
Well, according to the Journal that model may not be playing out so well anymore. I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time I sat around waiting up to 11PM to get news. If I want news immediately, ummm, I go to the internet and see what is going on - that's especially true for sports and weather. Heck, weather.com turns me into the same weather bunny that appears at 11PM and if I want to watch TV then (ok - maybe the bunny reference is stretching the truth a bit :-)
What's a local news station supposed to do? You can't stream the video of the latest TV shows because all of the major networks are already doing that and running reruns online runs into the same problem. The best thing to do is go back to the future.
They should stick with what worked well in the past - proprietary local news. They can still produce the local news content, but instead of just relying on TV, stream it online and build your content out on your website. You can also start an online community with blogs, wikis, social, etc that only your local audience will really be interested in. Heck, you can even throw in a Meetup strategy. Then with traffic get your local businesses, like the local drugstore to advertise. Today, these advertisers don't have a viable, cost effective alternative for advertising online because they can't rely just on IP targeting to grab their local consumers. Basically, build on the local community, provide the content to keep them, and get the advertisers to join in the fun.
Yes it looks like a sad state for local TV stations who bought into an old model that may not work as well in the past. Instead of sitting around wondering where the traffic went to, try joining the conversation online. If you can't beat the movement, join it. Local TV stations might actually take the battle to the local newspapers.