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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Content vs. Competition

I'll never claim to be a pioneer in online news, but I have been at it for nearly a decade and I've been progressive enough that I'd like to think I'm near the leading edge.

The thing that frequently turns me off about the news business in general is this long-holding take that we're not allowed to openly acknowledge the competition. If only our viewers could see us!

It's always been the norm in a newsroom to keep one ear -- and both eyes -- on the strategically placed monitors. On the occasion that one of the other stations has a story your station doesn't have, the knee-jerk battle cry is often to send a crew and play catch up, often times at the expense of a better story that's already in-house.

I'm not saying a station should go on-air and parrot its direct rival, but I think it's fairly Mickey Mouse to pretend this rival doesn't exist either, especially consdering how many scoops might dictate your editorial meeting tomorrow morning.

I'll never forget the story my dad often told me about when he was a star quarterback at powerhouse Cathedral Latin High School in Cleveland in the late 1940s. He said his coach required all players to stop their pregame stretching and applaud when the other team came out onto the field. Classy and respectful. Ya know, the complete opposite of the modern-day television newsroom.

Anyway, this is where my new gig comes into the conversation. In just a week, it feels like we're moving in a direction much healthier than what I'm used to. Sure you want to beat the competition, but there seems far less of an obsession with the local rivals.

I'm obviously not on the broadcast side, so certainly my view is incomplete. But online here, we scour other sites, not just AP wires and in-station broadcast content, and if there's something good done by someone else, by all means, we post it. Is it lazy? Is it stealing? It's neither. You have to remember, we're not providing content for our competitors. We're providing content for our viewers and users. Sure we give the necessary and appropriate attribution and even link back to the original source material. But the bottom line is that our "viewsers" don't care where the information comes from; they just want the information. And those are the people we serve.

The news business has changed dramatically in recent years and will continue to do so. Gathering, producing and distributing content is a completely different ballgame than it was just five years ago. And if you still want to be a player five years from now, then you have to think of your consumers first, not the competition.

And thanks in large part to social networking, the information industry is evolving daily as well. Dave in Cincinnati saw something on a blog today, sent me the link, I checked it out, Googled a few keywords, found the initial report, and then wrote my own short story, of course properly citing and linking back to the original source.



At 1:56 PM EST, Anonymous Miles said...

What about all that music you got from Napster back in the day? Did you ever send Lars Ulrich his check?

At 2:20 PM EST, Anonymous Trane said...

too bad someone in Louisville wasn't covering you making an ass out of yourself with Felton Spencer. Would've been a great story.

Local man-child makes ass of self by mixing up opening line to 7' local hoops hero in attempt to look cool.


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