Local TV

Meredith Joins Raycom Hub Club

Station group is licensing online content on WorldNow platform 7/25/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

While the trend of stations sharing on-air footage has been
going on for a few years, the content-sharing craze took a
new turn when Raycom Media and Meredith Local Media
brokered their recent online content pact. On July 1, Meredith was officially signed up to access the Raycom News Network—Raycom’s digital
content hub based out of corporate headquarters in Montgomery, Ala.

The deal sees Meredith pay an annual fee for access to primarily national
news content from the Raycom hub for its 10 station Websites, which
relaunched on the WorldNow
platform July 1. The arrangement
gives Meredith access
to a 24/7 content operation,
meaning a more robust mix of
stories on its sites. “It’s a unique
relationship—I don’t know if
another’s like it in the country,”
says Tom Cox, VP of digital sales
at Meredith. “It provides coverage
to our digital news desks on
weekends and after hours—the
kind of content that a station
might not have the time and resources
to put together.”

Like so many ideas, the Raycom-
Meredith partnership was
hatched in an Irish pub. Cox
and Pat LaPlatney, VP of digital media at Raycom, were having dinner at
the Fitzpatrick Hotel’s Wheeltapper Pub in New York, following a Borrell
Associates conference in March. Meredith was doing its diligence in finding
a Web services provider, and LaPlatney mentioned the Raycom News
Network as a potential feature for joining with WorldNow.

“The conversation proceeded very quickly from there,” says Cox, who
adds that Raycom’s hub was a factor in selecting WorldNow. (Steve Schwaid,
then Meredith’s VP of digital content and WGCL news director, was instrumental
to the partnership too before jumping to WTXF Philadelphia.)

The “Raycom News Network Digital Hub,” as it’s officially called,
launched in January and currently features about 15 staffers, including
director Timothy Donley and Charles Gray, Raycom director of new
media content. Raycom stations kick in money to fund the hub, and in
turn get online news content at their disposal (including recent features
on the Atlantis space shuttle launch and landing), same as the Meredith
stations now do.

The hub content is primarily regional or national, which seems to run
counter to the station trend toward hyperlocal coverage. But Susana Schuler,
Raycom VP of news, says providing the broader content frees up stations to
focus on stories in their own backyards. “The whole purpose is to give the
stations the man-hours to get more local in nature,” she says.

The fight to supply Web services to local media outlets is a hot one between
the likes of WorldNow, Broadcast Interactive Media and Inergize
Digital, among others. Raycom is a partner in WorldNow, with President/
CEO Paul McTear and LaPlatney sitting on the firm’s board. Meredith had
previously been a client of WorldNow’s before splitting for Internet Broadcasting
in 2005; similar to Raycom’s hub, IB has staffers producing national
content for station partners.

Meredith relaunched its 10
station sites, including those
representing KPHO Phoenix
and KPTV Portland (Ore.),
with WorldNow throughout
the month of June. In mid-July,
WorldNow announced that
Meredith had access to Raycom
News Network for “continuous
24/7 national news coverage.”
The News Network “leverages
a hub to produce original content
for both groups’ sites from
its strong pool of TV station
Websites,” read the statement.

Executives at both Raycom
and Meredith say the two parties
are a logical fit, with stations that are often in the same state, such
as Meredith’s WGCL and Raycom’s WTOC Savannah and WTVM Columbus,
Ga., but not competing in the same market. “It’s a really good
match between the two groups,” says Cox.

Raycom is something of a model group when it comes to sharing content
among its stations. Primarily clustered in the southeastern U.S., the group
uses BitCentral’s Oasis system to share stories of regional and, at times,
national interest, such as the tornadoes that tore through the south and
southeast earlier this year. Schuler and McTear were in Los Angeles last
week overseeing the production of America Now, a group-wide program
that features newsy content produced by stations throughout the Raycom
system. The show relaunches as a daily program Sept. 12.

Schuler is bullish on the future of the Raycom News Network. She says
Raycom has received inquiries from other station groups, both inside and
outside the WorldNow Web fold, about partnering with Raycom News
Network. She adds that Raycom is also considering expanding the content
arrangement to include on-air material with Meredith and subsequent partners.
“Right now it’s strictly digital, but that might change,” Schuler says.
“We’re open to exploring it.”

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