How to explode TV news in four easy steps

How to explode TV news in four easy steps

Try this:

1. Slice.

Cut up your shows into stories and put them all online.

After you air a story, it’s fishwrap. Nobody can see it. If they missed it, well, that’s tough for them. Is that any way to treat your public? Well, you don’t have to anymore.

You should put up every story you do — and not just as a stream but as files that the people can distribute on their own.

You can still make money on this — in fact, you’ll make new money: Put ads on the video; track those ads; and tack on a Creative Commons license that says people can distribute the video but cannnot muck with it. And you’ll find something magical will happen: Your audience will market your product for you and distribute it for you and it won’t cost you anything more. It’s free money, damnit. Tell that to your stockholders.

And while you’re at it, take your script for the segment and associate it with the video as meta data (that is, post it on a blog with a link to the video) so people can find your stories on search engines and then watch them.

This means that people who really want to see your stories and are interested in them can now do so. We’re no longer captive to your schedule and your selection; we can watch what interests us. We are in control.

The result: You will get a more interested and involved audience. You will get a bigger audience. You will get more people who will like what you do and start watching your old-fashioned shows. You will benefit. We will benefit.

If you really care about informing the public — which, of course, you do — then this is the first step to doing it a new and better way.

2. Add.

You have more material for every story you do: I’ve seen how much goes into a 3-minute piece and how much is left out.

Now in most cases, I do think that stuff that’s cut is extraneous to most people.

You’re right to edit and package. Keep it up.

And in the early days of online when news people thought this medium was all about getting more time to tell longer stories with more stuff and another chance to show off cute writing, I screamed in protest: No, your stories are already too long anyway. Find the nearest period!

But for those who are intensely interested in a story or who want to look deeper into what we say, why not put up all the rest of your material? Why throw it away? Put up entire interviews and do it in chunks so people people link directly to one piece or another and, in essence, put up their own remixes. Show the world your great reporting.

If you’re doing your job right, this will help your credibility and reputation, for most people will see that you really did pick the right stuff and did tell the story well.

More important, you enable people who need more information to get it. And that is our job, isn’t it?

3. Link.

It’s as simple as that: Link outside of your own echo chamber of a newsroom. Link to your competitors and show what they did on stories — stories you did better, stories you didn’t do. Do not assume we are your captive. Assume we are smart and want to be informed and want to find the best reports we can. Also assume that we are a thinking public and we want to see and hear different perspectives on a story so we can decide what we think. So help us. We’ll appreciate it.

Link to your competitors. It will be good for you. It will make you want to do better jobs on stories than they do.

4. Listen.

Listen to the people you used to call your audience but should see as your equals.

The next time bloggers suggest a fact of your may be wrong, CBS, listen to them. Quote them. Look into what they say. Thank them. Learn your lesson, huh?

And it’s not just about fact-checking your ass. It’s about knowing that your former viewers have something valuable to say. At first, it’s just about quoting their words.

But you know that it won’t be very long before we’re all equipped with cameras and we’ll all be witnesses to our 15 minutes of news. The wise news organization will create an easy way to collect and remix and redistribute all that. Wouldn’t you like to have eyewitness video from the heart of a new story? Recognize that anyone can be a reporter. Anyone who sees and reports news is a reporter. So widen your world. Listen. Quote. Make your public a star alongside your anchors.

: When you’ve done all that, you’ve turned news into a conversation.

You’ve turned the spotlight away from the anchor — the mere personality who got you in trouble — and you turn it onto the news itself, where it belongs.

You’ve engaged the people you used to call your viewers, who used to just sit there but have since started walking away, into the news.

You’ve made anchors what they should be: supporting players, second bananas. (And you’ve saved yourself a helluva lot of money along the way.)

And you’ve informed the public. Isn’t that what news is about instead of an anchor’s fame?

  • Jessica Richman

    This is really, really good. Thanks so much for seeing this problem and finding the solution to it! These are great suggestions and I hope someone in a position to do something, does it.
    Thanks again.

  • Peg

    Seems that this would apply to all mediums, not just TV

  • Slice, add, link and listen? Brilliant!

  • Jeff,
    You’ve captured what the media should be. I imagine a day when I open up my iPod or PocketPC and find the CBS News folder, with the latest ten stories from their new anchor, Jeff Jarvis. I pick which ones I want to view from CBS, then switch over to see what ABC is saying about the same topic. Then, when I get back home, I can link to the most interesting stories and make some comments on my video Podcast. With RSS enclosure support and iPodder, we have the infrastructure in place. All that’s needed is the will and the trust that the media will come out the other end financially whole. That is the risk.
    In the mean time, I’m working hard on the audio version of this on my Podcast: Rip N’ Read Bloger News at I read the blogs so you don’t have to. Listen on your walks, in the car, at a soccer game.
    Charlie Quidnunc

  • growler

    Fanastic ideas, all, but will never get implemented by shortsighted fools at the networks.
    ABC, for one, has lots online already. But you have to pay monthly to access it. They won’t “go backward” because they aren’t able to see the bottom line when it’s way down the line, no matter how much bigger it would be.

  • BrianM

    I don’t think your idea would fly with advertisers. It would have the result of closly associating individual ads with a particular story when decoupled with “the news” as a whole.

  • Those are all excellent ideas. I’ve said similar things. Until recently, radio, tv, and newspapers were ephemeral. A small portion was collected in books and on tapes, but most was lost.
    But now everything can be archived. And people who are interested can find it (or at least try).
    The problem is most media outlets don’t archive (or charge for archives). And even those with free archives don’t make enough use of them. The San Francisco Chronicle has most of their stories since 1995 online, but they rarely make use of this. Wired has all of their issues online and has archives by category, but don’t include any links to past stories on James Cameron from the intro he wrote to the current issue.
    It is frutstrating to see all the potential that isn’t being realized.
    One program that does some of what you suggest is Frontline. Most of their recent shows are available as streaming media and they post longer transcripts of interviews than make it into the show.

  • Great for TV news. What about newspapers? They are frighteningly similar, intensely predictable and dull. Circulation has been slipping for years (as has broadcast news viewership; see today’s business section of the NY Times for that data). And I can tell you what is on Page One of most newspapers–a story about Thanksgiving travel. Tomorrow most papers will have pictures of people traveling in bad weather, stranded in airports, etc. Yawn.

  • Ditto first comment — really, really good.
    Slice, Add, Link, Listen.
    It doesn’t quite fit here, but I wish more news included at least one “balance question”. If their analysis is wrong, how would they know?
    But news would be so much better if they followed these 4 steps.

  • Two problems from #1 that would muddy up an otherwise fine idea…
    1)Newsrooms face extended legal exposure by airing clips of unaired material on their website. Assuming the material was potentially libelous/slanderous, have the outtakes been broadcast? Some might say by putting them out on the web that they meet this standard.
    2)News employees (generally reporters) are not that willing to continue their job after their live shot/package airs. They’ll wrap up and cut a vosot for their following show to ensure that the story stays in the news cycle, but after that I’m afraid many feel that it’s time to move on and pursue another story. I might be proven wrong, especially with an adaquate web / promo team (who, along with an enthustiasic news exec) might be willing to drive viewers to their web site.

  • Great stuff, and I’ve passed it onto the AV editors @ BBC News Interactive.
    However, the biggest issue facing the online provision of audio video news content is that providers such as the BBC don’t own the re-distribution rights to all of the footage they use.
    This has lead to the streaming-only model which prevents users from being able to download a package and redistribute it in the way your article describes. Big feed vendors such as PA have little to gain from allowing their footage to be distributed around the internet.
    If you have any thoughts, views, solutions to this please write a follow up!

  • Just saw a Cnet article that states that Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are working on just such a thing

  • Excellent stuff! I love the meme.. Slice, add, link, listen…