It was Tuesday night, and I was watching the returns for the three Presidential election season contests that quickly merged into a collective Rick Santorum tsunami, as the former Pennsylvania Senator defeated presumed GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. While I had my TV tuned to CNN, I noticed that I was getting most of my information via Twitter and not from Anderson, Wolf, and co. Faster than CNN’s producers could cue up their “Breaking News” graphics, 140-word comments and complaints flooded my iPhone’s tiny screen as journalists, pundits, and political junkies alike shared their thoughts on the night’s events. While I certainly enjoyed listening to the banter and observations of CNN’s on-air team (who didn’t smile when Wolf Blitzer said “OMG” upon looking at Santorum’s surge), I was getting most of my immediate election updates from social media, underscoring the changing face of news.
This kind of commentary certainly isn’t original or new. Media watchers have been looking at this for years now –– from the rise of radio to television, from “the big three” to cable, from cable to Youtube and Twitter, etc. The way news has been delivered continues to evolve, but I think it’s always interesting to take a look at how the standard-bearers of news decide to embrace these shifts. Do they remain the same, and hope their audiences remain loyal? Or do they broaden their reach, molding themselves to fit into the fractured media landscape? Some media organizations certainly do better than others.
In with the new
One of the most successful broadcast outlets to embrace the broader possibilities that come from an embrace of New Media is ABC News. With regular news broadcasts airing since 1948, ABC has long been an icon of American broadcasting, in many ways driven by the appeal of its strong on-camera personalities like Barbara Walters, Peter Jennings, and Diane Sawyer. While NBC News still dominates the ratings with “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” and the venerable “Today Show,” and CBS News’ evening and morning newscasts are perpetually stuck in third place (but “60 Minutes” does remain the highest-rated news program on TV), ABC has found a way to integrate their broadcast and online content, effectively expanding its audience online.
Back in October, ABC announced a partnership with Yahoo! News that linked the broadcast giant with the widely-visited web resource. Besides integrating “Good Morning America’s” homepage with Yahoo!, the deal provided an online home for popular ABC anchors and correspondents like George Stephanopoulos and Christiane Amanpour. So far, the merger has paid off. On Tuesday, TV Newser reported that ABC Digital streamed more than 100 million videos in January –– a first for the news organization. The article cites that this is a direct result of the Yahoo! partnership, suddenly making ABC a fierce competitor against CNN on the Web. For comparison, CNN.com averaged 101 monthly video streams in 2011. And ABC isn’t just stopping with Yahoo! As reported by the Wall Street Journal, ABC News’ parent company, the Walt Disney Co. and Univision Communications are now in talks to start a new English-language 24-hour cable news channel, adding another alternative to the triumvirate of Fox, MSNBC, and CNN.
Moving to smaller screens
As ABC transitions to the brave new world of New Media, one of its former correspondents is using the Web to tell stories that are of particular importance to him. Stone Phillips, a former ABC newsman who left the anchor desk of NBC’s “Dateline” in 2007, recently started his own website, “Stone Phillips Reports.” Using the site as a way to profile issues important to him, Phillips –– a former starting quarterback at Yale –– made youth football injuries the topic of his first report. A comprehensive, broadcast-style piece, Phillips’ investigation is just as comprehensive as anything found on traditional TV formats. While he may no longer be a network news anchor, Phillips has been able to take his skills as an interviewer online, and his latest (and rather surprising) career move might be something some of his Old Media peers should take note of.
HuffPost reinvents TV
While stalwarts of traditional broadcasting like ABC and Stone Phillips take their reporting chops to an iPad near you, one dominant leader of New Media is looking to reinvent the broadcast news model. For after all, these Old Media figures present their New Media content in a very traditional style. The Huffington Post looks to shake that up with the HuffPost Streaming Network, planning on offering live online broadcasting content for 12 hours a day, five days a week. As reported by TVNewser, the network will be a “cache of of videos for viewers to watch any time if they miss the live stream.” The aim is to make TV more like the internet, and the internet more like TV. In the near future, there probably won’t be much of a difference between the two.