KNBC Los Angeles plans to mark the two-year anniversary of its News Raw digital channel by reaching out to a markedly underserved segment of news viewers: first- through sixth-graders.
The station will debut Yip Yap—its name for the children's programming that will run on News Raw—with what producer Mary Harris calls “a little appetizer” on Friday afternoon, May 16. After that lone 10- or 15-minute segment, Yip Yap is set to take a regular Saturday morning spot later this year on the NBC O&O's digital channel, featuring kids as they learn, laugh and interact in schools, aquariums and zoos around Southern California.
“As [former TV host] Art Linkletter said, 'Kids say the darndest things' when you stay out of their way,” says KNBC VP/News Director Robert Long. “My hope is that kids will watch with their parents, and it will be unlike anything they've seen before.”
KNBC debuted News Raw on digital channel 4.4 and the Time Warner Cable system in late May 2006. It offers news junkies longer, less polished stories than those running on the station's newscasts, an array of news blogs, and a daily peek inside the KNBC newsroom during the staff's morning meetings. (News Raw runs 19½ hours, including live programming and loops, per day.) The channel's “news jockey” Mekahlo Medina hosts the block of original programming, and viewers are encouraged to submit videos and eyewitness accounts of the news of the day as well. News Raw is ad-supported, though KNBC has not made a major push on ad sales.
News Raw, which can also be watched at www.knbc.com/newsraw, is not Nielsen-rated, but Long calls it a success based on Web visitors (it is averaging 28,700 video streams a month), viewer e-mails and anecdotal evidence such as viewers who recognize Long around town from watching the staff's morning meetings. “We've had a lot of pings,” he says. “Even if we can't really measure it, we know it provides a service.”
News Raw fits with NBC's multi-platform mandate, which pushes the stations in its Local Media Division to create and distribute content across several platforms simultaneously. (Last week, NBC announced plans for a digital “content center” and a 24/7 digital news channel in New York.) As News Raw approaches the start of its third year on the air, Long says he plans to get more KNBC staffers involved in its programming.
He also seeks to connect with children. Long tapped KNBC's Emmy Award-winning special projects producer Harris to spearhead production for Yip Yap, which takes its name from the children's term for casual conversation. With the tagline “What Kids Are Talking About,” Yip Yap's content is not expected to reflect current events so much as light-hearted topics like school and animals. Sticking with the News Raw vibe, the segments will be unvarnished slices of life with the camera serving as the proverbial fly on the wall. Yip Yap does not rely on anchors or reporters—adult or otherwise.
Harris calls the project “a glorious work in progress” that's of course subject to change. Yip Yap's current segment categories include “Sneak Peek at My School,” “Field Trippin',” and “California Cruising.” Segments run from a few minutes long to around 15 minutes, and Long says the station has been producing content for about a year.
Following this Friday's debut, there will be monthly one-hour Yip Yap specials on Saturday mornings in June, July and August, and it will probably end up as a weekly Friday afternoon feature on News Raw.
While one station insider who occasionally watches News Raw considers it “a little too inside-baseball” for its tireless devotion to the news business, some think Raw's kid-centric spin-off might just fly. “If it's non-traditional and unconventional and non-linear, that's great—I'm all for innovation,” says Frank N. Magid Senior VP Bill Hague. “You have the ability to innovate on the digital tier without the same risk of innovating on the mother ship.”
While Yip Yap seems like a smart way to get young people familiar with the KNBC news brand, its architects say the impetus was more about filling a mandate for children's programming on the digital channel—and giving children their moment to shine. “Yip Yap is a celebration of kids and a celebration of Southern California,” says Harris. “If the kids become watchers of our news, that's a bonus.”