Friday, September 09, 2005

Still a way to go in convergence

Catching up on my reading, which includes a report (PDF) from Ball State University, the second part of its study of the status of convergence operations between TV stations and newspapers. The conclusion seems to be there's still have a long way to go if you, as I do, favor the day when we tell stories with media combinations that provide the strongest storytelling possible.

The headline news is that half of the TV news operations have a partnership with a newspaper, and those exist across all market sizes. But relatively few are committed to using the combinations to tell stories the best way possible across media.

Among the findings:
  • 13 percent of TV news directors surveyed find no benefit from the partnerships.
  • 27 percent never share stories they are working on (and more than 65 percent never share a complete lineup)
  • 45 percent say they never update their newspaper partner throught the day on the progress of stories.
  • 64 percent never allow a newspaper partner's reporters to use station resources.
  • 62 percent of TV stations and 70 pecent of newspapers "do not spend time during their news meetings discussing how to promote their partner's content.
Don't get the idea this is TV's fault alone. While more than four in five of the news directors who answered the survey said their newspaper partner's logo appears on their TV newscast at least weekly, an earlier study of newpaper editors found that just 28 percent of newspapers featured the TV logo. That study found that about 30 percent of newspapers have TV partnerships. It's interesting, then, that a greater proportion of TVs have partnerships considering there are fewer newspapers in most markets to partner with.

(The researchers conclude "these results may demonstrate a key difference in the organizational cultures of different newsrooms: they may place different values on the importance of promotion." Not to be disrespectful, but well, duh. Just count the number of promotional moments in an average three hours of TV. Then count the promotional ads in the average newspaper. TV is all about promotion, which is one of things newspaper reporters harp on.)

But convergence does seem to at least have a beachhead: About one in eight news directors said a common assignment desk or editor coordinates story planning. One in 10 said a common manager or editor actually weighs the strengths of each medium in telling a story.

That's not surprising. As long as the mediums remain separate and rather cumbersome to switch between, there's little incentive to do this kind of blending. But as the receiving devices blend -- and that begins in earnest leading up to 2009 when analog TV goes away -- I think we'll see more cooperation, not just poorly executed cross-promotion.

(A note on both surveys: They have relatively low response rates -- 25.6 percent of 1,452 editors and 31 percent of 732 news directors. That's not bad for mail/e-mail surveys but here's hope that future work gets better cooperation.)


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