Company: WRSW, WAWC, WLEG and WRSW AM in Warsaw, Indiana
Owner: Federated Media
Initiative: LCTV, a Daily Video News Show for Kozciosko County area
Key Executives: Woody Zimmerman, GM, AC McCray, Videography, Teri Armstrong, New anchor
Summary: A Federated Media-owned radio station group in Lake County, Indiana has created a daily video newscast powered by radio promotions but distributed largely via Facebook and by text to mobile phones. The popular newscast is professionally produced on a shoe-string budget, breaks local news, and, best of all, landed a mid-to-high five figure sponsorship from a local auto dealer. Here's how the newscast was put together, including equipment, staffing, promotions, format and results.
Challenge: Woody Zimmerman, GM, had launched a daily video news show at a radio station before. He was working in Auburn, Indiana, a community whose closest television station is about 20 minutes south in Fort Wayne.
"Our numbers were decent but could have been better," he said of the station's news broadcast. "We thought we had a lot of interest, but it was hard to change people's habits. They were used to getting news from Fort Wayne."
The trouble was that Auburn is more of suburb of Fort Wayne, and while listeners liked the hyper-local news content, they didn't feel they needed it to stay in touch.
When he moved to Warsaw, Indiana to manage a station group, Zimmerman wondered if the extra distance from the next TV market - South Bend - would make a critical difference in launching the only available video newscast.
"I think its going to work in Warsaw because we are 40 miles away from the closest TV market. It takes about an hour by car."
To test his theory, the team created inexpensive daily video out of existing staff and very little equipment.
Putting together a "good enough" daily newscast on a shoestring budget required leveraging internal resources and acquiring some new equipment on the cheap. The key components of the strategy were a. staff, b. equipment, c. process, d. promotions and finally, of course, e. revenues. Taken one by one:
1. Personnel. The minimum newscast requires an anchor and videographer, who between them can write and announce news, plus gather and edit the video.
For the videographer, Zimmerman tapped a part-timer with an interest in news. "One of our board ops was into video." That was AC McCray, who had once worked at a Fox station as the weekend news director, had indie film background, and generally knew how "to get things to look the way they are supposed to look."
Text "udate" to 45364 to see just how good the quality of the look really is.
Next, he needed an anchor. Fortunately, the newscasterfor all of the stations, Terri Armstrong, was able, willing and had the talent to move from audio to video.
2. Equipment. Most of the equipment was also already somewhere at the station, ready to be redeployed. The tally consisted of:
• One stay-on-site camera - The station already owned a Panasonic standard definition video camera with an enhanced chip for coloring. It became the stationary camera for the morning broadcast.
• Teleprompter - The team created a teleprompter from a computer monitor and some "Flipq prompter" software. The set-up actually requires a dual screen composed of two monitors, one for the software, one for the prompter.
• Video editing software - Adobe premiere pro
• Two cameras in the field with mikes - Zimmerman says they use a couple of Cannon video cameras purchased two years ago for $250 each at a "big box store." McCray suggests that for shooting news, a video camera is typically 300 to 400 for a lower end, and for more production quality without editing, $1500 and up. "Since it was a new venture we wanted to test it with what we had."
A couple of wireless mikes and a handheld mike that operates through the camera are needed to capture sound in the field, though in a pinch the mike on the camera picks up sound.
• Police scanner - Since the station already had a local newscast, they had a police scanner stationed at the front desk, where an administrative assistant monitors reports for anything that is breaking newsworthy.
• A Green Screen. This background can switched out with logos for LCTV and other templates (our favorite, a wall of multiple screens, as if the rock station were a news hive creating and tracking multiple news programs).
3. Process. When the news anchor does the morning newscast for all the stations, she also assembles the news for LCTV, writing the script and running the teleprompter while recording against the green screen. She leaves the script - and a few ideas for the next day - for the videographer, who shoots any video nearby and edits the package by 10 to 12 a.m. Sometimes McCray will voice over a car crash, then edit back to the anchor with a brief "back to you" that mimics live news.
Most of the news and video still comes from partnerships with nearby media outlets, which also help fill in photo and video coverage. However when is there is breaking news, McCary will often cover it.
Days after the station launched, for example, the administrative assistant picked up a house fire on the police scanner that was "luckily" close to the station. She called it into McCray, who drove to the site and able to break the story with video of house engulfed in flames, posted immediately, with distribution via 900 Facebook fans, in addition to onair mentions.
"We get what we can, we've been fortunate that the bigger stories have been fairly close to the station. If we give ourselves until noon, we can get out there t shoow fresh video," McCray said.
"We learned you have to keep the video fresh every day, otherwise might as well do a talking heads report...We don't like to get stuck."
4. Revenues. The team creates a first and second sponsorship position embedded in the roll. The sponsor gets a "presented by" mention whenever the newscast is broadcast or promoted, plus a 15 second commercial after the news tease, every day.
At this writing, the show is only three weeks old, and the first sale has already been made, to a used auto company, "The Car Company," so the "presented by" line was change to "driven by The Car Company of Warsaw." The dealer used the commercial slot for a text link to used cars on his lot. There is also a five second spot toward the end of the show.
So far the dealer's spot was pre-produced, but the station says it going to be shooting a spot for them. The total value of the contract is in the mid to high five figures.
5. Promotions. There is no specific LCTV app, but the use of YouTube means that the sites are already viewable on phones. So the focus has been to distribute directly via Facebook (it plays mostly right on the Facebook page, rather than clicking back to YoutTube) and mobile viewing via text alerts and text back onair promotions. While the broadcast is also promoted on the stations' sites, most of the traffic comes from Facebook's 9000 fans.
The station used it's exisitng textback provider, Vibes, to broadcast spots asking listeners to text "UPDATE" to 45364 to subscribe to alerts. Note: Try this on your smart phones now - the show is well worth watching to see the production value, and "get" how powerful this really is when the news is breaking and nearby.
• More people watch the broadcast directly on Facebook than Youtube according to analytics, with viewers in the thousands, and text alerts between 150 to 200 a day.
• The key dealer sponsor is spending mid- to high - five figures for the promotion.
• "We can see it being split between multiple advertisers... this is just the beginning," Zimmerman says.
Our take: This company is clearly on to something. We think it won't take much more than a severe weather or other emergency situation for the station to have a mobile news channel that "breaks out" from being a unique service for the early adaptive rock n'roll crowd. Epecially impressive is the quality of the newscast; clearly the talent of the anchor and Fox news background of the videographer and editor is at work in this show.
Many thanks to Woody Zimmerman and AC McCray for contributing this outstanding local initiative.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.