Local TV

LIN, Fox Partner on Station Sites

Breaking with WorldNow, LIN TV turns to Fox Interactive Media to relaunch its stations sites nationwide. 10/19/2008 11:00:00 PM Eastern

LIN, meet FIM. The 29-station LIN TV is partnering with Fox Interactive Media (FIM) to relaunch LIN's station sites nationwide.

Two sites, representing WPRI Providence and WALA Mobile, Ala., relaunched on the FIM platform late last week. Five more are slated to relaunch this week, and eight more in the coming weeks.

The remainder of LIN's stations, primarily outlets that are more entertainment-focused than news-driven, will switch after the election. LIN's properties are spread out—with stations in Columbus, Ohio; Buffalo, N.Y; Austin, Texas; and Albuquerque, N.M., among others.

LIN Senior VP of New Media Robert Richter calls the Fox partnership a “hybrid relationship.” FIM provides the content-management system, but its tag does not appear on the station sites. “It's our brand on top of their technology,” he says. “It allows us to custom develop specific items we want to build.”

The partnership spells a departure from LIN's relationship with WorldNow. Richter suggests FIM gives LIN ample opportunity to “control our own destiny”—shape sites to fit their particular market, and give producers more leeway in making quick changes. “We've grown a lot, and there's a very distinct direction we want to go in,” says Richter, who credits WorldNow for helping the TV industry get a foothold in the Web world.

WorldNow President/CEO Gary Gannaway said the LIN Websites were the leading station sites in nearly all of their markets during their partnership, and said he'd miss working with them.

The LIN-FIM alliance comes as stations scramble to find the right formula to best capture digital dollars. Just last week, NBC announced a new online strategy for its owned stations, which are rolling out “Locals Only” sites. NBC Local Media President John Wallace called it “the next step in our mission to provide truly relevant local content to consumers on the media platform of their choice.”

LIN's revamped sites feature an expandable video player, overhauled weather sections, and more social networking capability. Richter says content is produced in a manner that allows users to become more engaged in the story, such as a Google Maps feature that helps a reader pinpoint the exact location of a news event. “We want to give the user the tools to get deeper into a story,” he says.

LIN's six Fox stations already were a part of the FIM system. With FIM owned by News Corp., Richter acknowledges that the sites might eventually take advantage of some of that media giant's efficiencies and properties. “Fox has a lot of great ideas,” says Richter. “In our minds, there are probably some other strategic things we could do with them.”

The LIN group has been active on the Web. It's seen a 50% increase in page views from the first half of 2007 to the first half of 2008, and a 65% increase in interactive revenue in the second quarter, compared with the same quarter last year. Earlier this year, it launched standalone local political sites, such as Michiganpolitics.tv, in 17 markets.

Richter says he'll continue to tweak the station sites: “Our goal is to develop the next version of what we believe the online world should look like.”

March