Making TV station Web sites truly local
NBC is taking a step in a highly recommended direction and rebranding its TV station Web sites to make them much more locally focused.
I say, bravo, NBC! (pun intended) Many experts –including Gordon Borrell of Borrell Associates – have been pushing TV stations to really get aggressive about going after the local market and local ad dollars. Borrell expects that market to surpass $13 billion this year, a number prior to the market crash/massive correction, but the point remains true: the local advertising market has a lot to offer struggling TV stations. (Never mind that I keep hearing things like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego are all down 30+% …)
At the moment, local newspapers are dominating the local online market. Of the $13.1 billion in local advertising that Borrell predicts is up for grabs this year, $3.7 billion of it will go to local newspapers, with the typical local paper winning 11.7% of average online local market share. By comparison, TV station Web sites in total are garnering $1.2 billion of the local online ad market, and more shocking, only 0.8% of the local online ad market. Radio is doing even worse, with local radio sites predicting $255 million in online revenue for 2008 and 0.5% of local online ad share.
Borrell has been pushing TV stations to do something much like NBC is doing: stop worrying about using your station Web site to promote your brand via call letters and use it to build vibrant local businesses. I don’t know if he’s right on the branding front – after all, TV stations have been promoting themselves via their call letter brands for more than 60 years now – but I think he’s on the money in terms of stations using the Web to build strong local businesses that are much more than just extensions of the TV station.
NBC says its new station sites will offer everything from “a wide variety of sources — including print, online publications, bloggers, individuals and NBC’s local television stations — to provide a new destination for local consumers who are looking to stay ahead of the curve and get plugged in to all their city has to offer.”
As part of the rebranding, NBC5.com becomes nbcchicago.com and NBC5i.com, the site representing NBC-owned KXAS Dallas, becomes nbcdfw.com. Following the launch of nbcchicago.com on Monday, NBC will plans to roll out Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco on Oct. 16; Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington on Oct. 20; and New York and Hartford, Conn., on Oct. 27.
While many people fret about ditching valuable call letter and channel branding, I think it becomes far easier to find the site if it’s named after the city it’s informing people about. If I type “Denver” into Google, here’s what comes up, in order: our convention center site, the Wikipedia entry, Denver city government, Denver Magazine’s Web site (which looks like a giant ad) and Craig’s List’s Denver entry. The Denver Post is the last entry on the first page. Denver-based TV stations are not on the first few pages I scroll through, although McGraw Hill’s KMGH, the local ABC affiliate, is at least branded thedenverchannel.com.
That’s pathetic. If TV stations want to become serious players in their local online markets, they need to be top of mind for viewers. That means NOT assuming viewers will go to station Web sites because they are watching local news and promos on a station’s air. Many viewers, especially young ones, especially the many people living here who rarely watch TV but are always online, NEVER watch a TV station’s local news, but they may still be interested in going to a TV station’s Web site if it offered useful information like what’s happening this weekend, what’s the newest restaurant to check out, where are the cool places to go, what bands are playing around town, and so forth.
NBC seems to get this: "These sites are a departure from what we’ve done in the past and the next step in our mission to provide truly relevant local content to consumers on the media platform of their choice," said John Wallace, president of NBC Local Media in a statement. "Our goal was to create a new type of user experience that’s less an extension of our TV stations and more of an online destination for the latest local news, information and entertainment. These sites are about putting consumers first and giving them the content they’re looking for from the best available sources."
Now let’s see if NBC can execute.