See Rock City! Going to Digital First?

How do news organizations find their footing when the ground starts shifting? We’re going to provide a hands-on view into the process that’s unfolding as newsrooms at the Missouri School of Journalism begin exploring and launching over-the-top (OTT) products and projects.

If you are of a certain generation, you remember roadside signs for Rock City (usually with an adjacent sign for Ruby Falls). West of the Mississippi, you remember the Wall Drug Store? We started our road trip earlier this summer at the first OTT News Summit organized by TVNewsCheck.

Mixed with success stories was the recurring theme critical to local journalists—digital efforts live in multiple overlapping eco-systems. Spend too much time in the wrong part of each eco-system at your own peril. Are you a reporter, producer, or an editor “doing the work” daily? Wonder if that approaching shark is telling you something? OK, back to our original metaphor as I try to help answer that question.

Every media organization has embarked on the trip to “Digital First”some time and again. I asked Glen Hale, director of digital audience development for Gray Television about his earliest Digital First memory. “It was at least 10 years ago and I was trying to get out of the forgotten corner of the newsroom.” Glen recalled management’s immediate fascination as soon as he showed them how the audience engaged with the digital product. Glen has some practical advice if you are one of the folks trying to read the map in your newsroom.

Adam Wiener is executive vice president and general manager of CBSN-Local. His team launched 24-hour local newschannels in New York City and Los Angeles with Boston and San Francisco just ahead. “CBSN opens the door for local newsrooms to provide extended coverage,” said Wiener at the OTT News Summit. Wiener went on to say he believes the linear streaming model is only the beginning. In an article about the network’s Q2 results, CBS confirmed plans to launch in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Miami, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

In full disclosure, both Glen and Adam are great travel partners who pulled me out of road side ditches and showed me some great sights. When your boss tells you it’s time for another trip to Digital First, remember to ask what THEY think it is going to look like when you get there. The hazards on the way to Digital First are great learning opportunities—just don’t let the digital sharks get too close.

We are back on the highway. Just ahead, KOMU-TV and the opportunities and challenges of bringing online a shiny new video platform.


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