Tech Tools That Redefine News Distribution

Broadcasting veteran Larry Sands explains how new tools can expand your digital brand presence beyond a single, static entity.
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Remember when “paradigm shift” were the two most overused words on the planet? They have now been replaced by various forms of the word “disrupt”: disrupted, disrupter, disrupting, disruption. Pick your favorite, and now apply it to the province of news. The who, when, where, why, and how of news now relates as much to the industry itself as it does serve for the basis of good journalism. The who now includes anyone with a smartphone at hand at the moment that news actually occurs. When people choose to consume news has gone from waiting for 6p.m. to the moment that the need to know first manifests itself. Where is no longer restricted to the living room but has instead migrated to anywhere you have your smartphone (the why? Because we can!). The how? It’s been reduced to a swipe, a tap, or a click.

Newsgathering and its delivery to an audience is changing at light speed. For those of us who are invested in the broadcasting industry, this fact is one that we cannot afford to ignore, particularly after witnessing the utter wreckage of the print industry first-hand. Our options, in light of this revolution in technology and information sharing, are two-fold: embrace the new possibilities and excel beyond anything our predecessors could have anticipated or cross our fingers_ and hope that we can maintain our relevance against all odds.

This might sound dire, but there’s a corresponding advantage to these changes. After all, technology brought us radio and television—both of which were integral to our industry’s growth and development. And while our process might change, our fundamentals will not. The three most important words in broadcasting are “news,” “video,” and “live.” These three simple, powerful, words sum up television broadcasting. It’s who we are, and rather than dilute that identity, certain new tools enable us to celebrate and perhaps even enhance the power of these terms.

Specifically, we as an industry can emphasize our relationship to these words and values by making them a central component of our web address—the heart of any brand’s digital identity.  Regardless of the industry, a website is a basic necessity for any successful business, and has been for a long time. But simply having a website is no longer sufficient. To truly make the most of the opportunities afforded by the Internet, we must be as bold and innovative online as we are onscreen. We must captivate and intrigue our audiences and offer them something fresh and unexpected. That’s a lot to ask of a single website, but perhaps it’s time we set aside thinking of our web presence as a single, static entity.

In mid-2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) ushered in a new digital age by voting to allow businesses and organizations to propose new domain extensions far beyond the limited supply of .coms, .nets, and .orgs available at that time. Fast forward just four years and there are now more than 1,000 alternatives to .com available for registration, opening a vast new frontier of highly personalized, available digital real estate. Now many of these extensions – say, .TATTOO and .YOGA, for example—have no personal relevance to me. There are a few, however, that perfectly capture the spirit of who I am and what I have done professionally for the last 25 years: .NEWS, .VIDEO, and .LIVE— the three words that mean everything to broadcasters.

This is not to suggest that .com is dead and these dynamic new words are a replacement for a company’s .com address. Instead, it’s time to think of them as a powerful complement to an existing web identity. Because the truth is, your web presence isn’t limited to a single website. The odds are you’ve got at least a small handful of social media channels—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.—each of which is a missed branding opportunity when you utilize the generic www.YouTube.com/yourname address assigned to you at registration.

Consider the ease, clarity and memorability of instead directing your audience to www.yourname.video. The link can either be directed to your brand’s YouTube channel or to a page with video content on your existing website.  No awkward backslashes, no confusion and easy to type with fumbling thumbs.

This is an especially useful tool considering that about half of the videos being viewed online are being watched on mobile devices. As inconvenient as it is to type a lengthy and difficult-to-remember web address onto a computer keyboard, it’s even worse on a device the width of your palm. Making your content easier to find, identify and access is just as important as producing quality content because your work can’t achieve the greatest possible impact without the right audience actually seeing it. What we do is important. We keep people safe in times of emergency; we provide access to vital information that makes people better citizens and human beings. Whatever else happens, we’re going to continue providing that service.

But some change is inevitable. It’s almost impossible to believe that just 15 years ago the coolest words in the English language were “you’ve got mail.” The hum of the modem connecting was as contemporary and cutting edge as Eminem’s hip-hop. So much has changed since then. The very devices and interfaces that seemed so profoundly cutting edge are now almost endearingly old fashioned. But we can’t afford to be. Our purpose is too important, our function too essential.

Tomorrow will likely bring further change, and the next day and the day after that. But by expanding our web identities, by being as innovative and expressive online as we are onscreen, we are armed and prepared to weather any storm and embrace technology. The Eskimos have a great saying: “Only the lead dog enjoys a change of view.” What are you looking at?

Larry Sands is the former president of Univision Puerto Rico, general manager for Univision Chicago, and has held roles at Fox, Seltel and in radio. He can be reached at larry@larrysands.com.

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