Hurricane Sandy has reminded us all of the vital role news
plays in our lives. An emergency shows us time and again that we turn to those
we trust to give us the truth, and to "tell it slant," to quote the
poet Emily Dickinson -- that special slant being those emotionally-resonant
drivers of engagement, such as the personality and presentation of those
Our engagement metrics have consistently demonstrated the
differentiation found in those who occupy the news chairs when it comes to
driving choice. But today there is this other aspect to how we get our news -- one
that, when examined, pinpoints precisely where media and message-sender meets:
It can be persuasively argued that news is one of the
categories most impacted by the widespread usage of digital media. Reporters
who have used traditional measures of television viewing to evaluate attention
paid to news events -- such as the State of the Union speech -- have found themselves
eating alone in the cafeteria after linking decreased television viewership
with citizens' apathy.
Blind to the completely different habits of the Higitals-those
folks who use digital with the fluency and regularity that others have with the
TV remote -- such reporters have missed a vital detail: The digitally-engaged
don't get their news in traditional ways. They get it when they want it, the
way they want it, and indeed do "consume" media events like the State
of the Union, without caring much whether Nielsen saw them doing it or not.
Hurricane Sandy brought this fact into sharp relief.
Reporters were stunned to find out that for many, what topped the list of
most-missed was digital connectivity. Once safe, finding a way to charge their
handhelds drove many to the streets in search of a generous neighbor (and there
were many of those) who put out an extension cord, allowing those who depend on
digital to get and share news -- public and personal. It always serves to remember
that old marketing adage concerning features versus benefits: Customers are not
really buying a drill; they are buying holes. For humans, no matter the
approach, connecting with each other is a primal force. For Higitals, their
"drill" is digital devices, delivering the benefit of a hole to see
through to the world and their tribe.
The smart news organizations are aware of this dichotomy of
traditional and digital-a split whose days are numbered, as digital becomes the
In our examination of what's at the crosshairs of engagement
with digital communication platforms and engagement with a.m. news programs, we
see that the news shows' own websites reign supreme, making the strongest
contribution of any platform. While other platforms also play a strong role,
such as mobile apps and online video, Good Morning America, Today and other programs are
being evaluated on how well they show up on their website.
"Attention must be paid," wrote Arthur Miller in Death
of a Salesman. For morning news, engaging consumers on their sites should
have their immediate attention. Nielsen ratings make and keep programs alive,
but as consumption habits shift, it may be inattention to digital that is the
Comments in this story are based on results data from the Digital
Platform Engagement Study.
Robert Passikoff is
founder and president of Brand Keys, Inc., a brand loyalty and customer
engagement research consultancy. He can be reached at email@example.com. Amy Shea is executive VP, director of
global brand development at Brand Keys. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.