YouTube Road Show Seeks Out Stations

Viral video giant is interested in local TV; broadcasters are receptive

Traditional media is getting a visit from a sexy new-media type
these days. YouTube is in the middle of what it’s calling a “road
show” to pop in on some leading stations around the country—and
better help those local TV folk work YouTube’s bottomless vault of Web videos
into their content mix. Between Olivia Ma, the site’s West Coast-based
news manager, and Kevin Allocca, its East Coast-based trends manager,
YouTube has visited some 30 stations nationwide,
including ABC’s owned outlets;
the company also preached its viral video
gospel to station group leaders at the recent
National Association of Broadcasters
gathering in Las Vegas.

YouTube’s foray into local TV started
at KGO San Francisco last summer,
where it worked with the station on a local citizen-reporting initiative called uReport, before working with other
stations in the ABC-owned group. (ABC
opted not to comment on its YouTube
strategy.) The road show will continue
around the country for the foreseeable
future, with YouTube’s managers targeting
stations that have solid news operations
and savvy Web outfits. “We’re
starting a conversation with local broadcasters,” says Ma. “News is inherently
local, and a lot of YouTube content is super-hyperlocal.”

Stations have been increasingly trying to harness the ever-evolving,
and growing, power of social media—whether it’s promoting their content
(and talent) on Facebook, Twitter or other new-media options. Last
week, Fox Television Stations promoted Jose Rios, KTTV Los Angeles
VP of news, to a new corporate post with duties that include “identifying
social media opportunities.” Cox, Raycom and Scripps recently announced
a daily syndicated program called RightThisMinute that the three
broadcasters say will “incorporate the Internet, mobile and social media,
citizen journalists and new ways of storytelling to broaden the appeal of
traditional television news and information.”

The relationship between TV stations and YouTube, which Google acquired
for $1.65 billion in 2006, goes back several years. In June 2007,
Hearst Television (then Hearst-Argyle) announced a distribution deal with
YouTube to have dedicated YouTube channels for the various Hearstowned
stations. “We always look for platforms that make sense for our
videos to be consumed globally,” says Jacques Natz, Hearst TV director of
digital media content. “YouTube is a piece of that, as are Yahoo and MSN.”

More recently, “Bed Intruder Song”—a bizarre mashup of news footage
from WAFF Huntsville set to music via the voice-altering Auto-Tune
program—was YouTube’s most-viewed video of 2010. KMBC Kansas City
also ended up with a viral video when one of its news stories became the
star of “Backin Up Song” on YouTube and iTunes.

Stations are eager to expand the partnership. But sifting through the glut
of videos on YouTube—the company says 35 hours of video are uploaded
every minute, and the rate is growing
rapidly—is a full-time job. YouTube has
designed a set of Web tools to help local
news producers identify videos of
interest in their community and catch
wind of viral videos from around the
world a day or so before they become
ubiquitous. helps
users spot which videos are gaining the
most momentum among visitors, and
the Trends Dashboard could not be more
user-friendly for stations; it offers popular
videos grouped by Nielsen DMA.

YouTube also works with stations to
launch a user-generated content platform
called YouTube Direct, similar to
YouNews and Hearst TV’s uLocal, that’s
designed to gather more front-line news
footage, such as viewers’ cellphone videos of extreme weather. YouTube is
poised to debut an e-newsletter for local TV personnel to glean best practices
about identifying and incorporating appropriate videos in stations’ news
product. “We want to make this as easy as possible for them,” says Allocca.

Chris Kline, KNXV Phoenix executive producer of new media, has been
sharing what he learned from Olivia Ma’s recent visit with his colleagues,
and working some of the tips into the Scripps station’s new social mediadriven
show, Now@9. That includes using the Trends Dashboard to find
Phoenix-specifi c trends to feature on the show each morning.

“Olivia gave us a great perspective on how to use YouTube in our daily
news gathering,” Kline says. “It was nice to put a face with such a big
name as YouTube.”

There is no revenue-sharing between the stations and YouTube; the latter’s
interest in local TV is in getting greater exposure for its videos, and
making YouTube a bigger player in traditional television. Ma says the You-
Tubers are learning as much on their travels as the station people. “It’s
been a great conversation about how and when and why they use YouTube
videos, and if they don’t, why not,” she says. “Television is still a very powerful
medium, and stations are the voice of their community. This is for
all of us to understand how to make YouTube more useful for stations.”

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