musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life, by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services.
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Whenever I travel, I make an effort to read the local papers and watch the local TV news. It's just my professional curiosity, as a PR guy with an interest in journalism.
Local TV news in Los Angeles can sometimes be a bit strange. The stations seem to have a fascination with car chases, and they use their news helicopters to follow chases from above. The coverage can go on for a long time.
The last time I was out this way, the 11 p.m. newscast on two stations spent almost the entire time on "breaking news" of police chasing a suspect in a car as he went on and off the freeway and through neighborhood streets. The coverage of the chase knocked off most other stories, shortened the weather report and totally precluded sports news. One of the stations even delayed the start of the network late-night show to continue showing the car chase, which finally ended when the car crashed around midnight.
Here in L. A. this week, I saw similar coverage, although not as long. And the other night, coverage of a peaceful protest that blocked a busy intersection in the Compton area included extensive and repetitive helicopter coverage of the crowd, even though nothing new was happening. But the coverage from above went on, knocking other news stories off the air.
The stations in L.A. like to use their helicopters. Maybe the low height of buildings out here makes it easier to get good shots from above. But I suspect that the stations are responding to what their viewers want. I've talked to some of the locals here and they've admitted, "We do like our car chases."
"Lowest common denominator news, as it happens and as long as it's happening, live from over the streets in southern California."
So here we go again, with yet another botched personnel move by TV network executives.
This time, it's the brains at Disney-ABC who made a major change in their popular syndicated "Live With Kelly and Michael" by informing the show's co-star Kelly Ripa of the change moments before making a public announcement.
Shades of NBC's botched firing of Ann Curry from the "Today Show," and that same net's handling of Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno.
They just don't learn.
ABC has blown it, again, by not letting key players in on important news in advance. When Ripa's former co-host and icon Regis Philbin announced his departure, she was told moments before the announcement was to be made to the media.
Trade media are now speculating that moving Michael Strahan to "Good Morning America" is a move to bolster that show and also a possible prelim to expanding "GMA" to a third hour, as NBC has done with "Today" in the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. hours. "Live" is a good money-maker for ABC, but "GMA" is more profitable and adding another hour would require minimal extra outlay. So Ripa might understandably fear taking away her popular co-host is a move in that direction, putting her own show in jeopardy.
I'm not feeling bad for Ripa financially -- she's paid quite well for her job on "Live." But still, it's not the way to treat employees, especially those so prominent in the public eye. And ABC's explanations and denials are ringing hollow.
Catching up on the news is a Sunday morning ritual. For me and millions of others, that means enjoying a cup (or 2 or 3) of coffee while reading the fat Sunday edition of The NY Times and watching CBS Sunday Morning. Charles Osgood has been hosting that show for more than 20 years.
His calm demeanor always lends a feeling of "we'll get through this" when he reports bad news, and his dry sense of humor, his poetic interludes and his courage to play piano and sing as seasonally appropriate makes you think of him as a wise, erudite uncle. He's someone whose visits you look forward to.
Osgood had big shoes to fill when he took over the spot from Charles Kuralt, but he's done it well.
The Daily News today has a story saying Osgood plans to retire this year. At age 83, he's certainly earned it. Hopefully, we'll still see him doing occasional reports or think pieces.
And hopefully, when a new host takes over (Jane Pauley is seen as a front-runner), the program will stick with its perfect mix of hard news and features on happenings in the news, the arts and sciences, personalities and the occasional oddities.
I've met Osgood a few times, when he's been an honoree or a presenter at the annual Christopher Awards that my firm publicizes, and he is as charming and classy in person as he is on camera.
His presence on Sunday Morning will be missed. Sundays won't quite be the same.
The age-old question of "who sees my ad" continues to plague advertisers.
Digital advertising now allows advertisers to get a better read on who looks at their ads and how long they spend looking, as well as lots of other information about us that we'd probably rather they not have. Ever wonder why, after you go to a site to look for information on travel to, say, Mexico, you all of a sudden start getting pop-ups and emails advertising destinations in Mexico? It's called behavioral tracking.
But as ads appear everywhere, we consumers look for ways to avoid them. It's almost like a game of cat & mouse.
With radio, simply hit the button to go to another station. Now, we have ad-free satellite radio or subscription services online like Pandora.
Back before DVRs or home video recorders, the only recourse we had to avoid ads on TV was either switch the channel (which pre-remote meant getting up to turn the dial) or leave the room to raid the refrigerator or take a quick bathroom break. Now, we simply click and the ads that marketers spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in front of us quickly zip by.
As our TV viewing habits are changing, advertisers are trying other ways to force us to watch their messages. Video on demand (VOD) from the networks usually disable the fast-forward feature on your clicker, so you have to watch TV the old-fashioned way -- ads included.
But the hot area these days for ads is online. We're close to the point where advertisers will be spending more money for online ads than for ads in traditional media. But even as this is happening, we consumers are finding ways to avoid the ads aimed at us on our computers, tablets and smart phones.
Banner ads have been shown to have limited impact on consumers. They're on our screens, but we tend to ignore them. Advertisers now use pop-ups that dominate the screen and override the content you're trying to view. Those pop-ups often have a box or circle with an "x" which you can click to have the ad go away. But advertisers are making those boxes smaller and harder to click on, especially if you're seeing them on a tablet or phone.
As a story in The New York Times recently said, it's becoming like the wack-a-mole game... trying to find the little "x."
This silly game becomes frustrating for consumers, and it hardly endears them to whatever product or service is being advertised.
One possible solution is to take a cue from pre-roll ads that pop up on some You Tube videos. There's a message, easy to see, that indicates that you can close the ad after 5 or 15 seconds ... and you see the time counting down. The viewer knows there will be an option and that he or she will just have to endure 5, 15, or 30 seconds before getting to the desired content. It's not as annoying as other pop-ups, and if the advertiser has created a compelling ad that catches you in those first 5 or 15 seconds, the consumer may opt to watch the entire ad, which could be 30 or 60 seconds, or even a lot longer.
It takes creativity. You can't simply use a regular TV ad and put it online. But if it works, it's win-win for both the advertisers and the consumer. It's a lot better than playing cat and mouse to try to avoid an ad.
Television is still, by far, the dominant mass medium in the U.S. But it's light years away from what it was 30 – 40 years ago, before cable took hold and before everyone was hooked up online.
It’s a different world, for sure. With literally hundreds of channels to choose from, plus on-demand and streaming programming, there's a dizzying array of program content. Some programming on cable and, lately, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon rivals feature films in terms on content quality and production value. In response, the broadcast networks have finally stepped up their game with some quality shows. Yes, broadcast still has plenty of lowest-common-denominator drivel led by mindless comedies and "reality" shows, but many are now calling this the new Golden Age for TV, based on content quality.
Nielsen says the hard-to-reach Millennials (18-34), highly coveted by advertisers, are spending 17 percent less time watching TV than a year ago, but it still averages nearly 22 hours a week. Across all age groups, adults spend an average of 36 hours a week in front of the tube. Boomers (ages 50+) watch much more TV -- 47 and a half hours weekly.
Probably the biggest change – and the biggest challenge for advertisers -- is how we watch TV. Even Boomers are now frequent DVR users, watching programs at their own convenience. But Millennials in particular are getting their TV across a spectrum of platforms, and traditional TV is quickly losing out as the primary way they watch TV. Increasingly, they watch TV on laptops, tablets and smartphones, usually with an absolute minimum of ads.
Radio, which doesn't get much attention in media circles, comes in a strong second. Across all age groups, we spend just under 13 hours a week listening to radio. Millennials listen less at 11 hours.
Smartphones account for 7-1/4 hours a week across all age groups. Millennials use their smartphones a lot more -- nearly 10 hours/week. Tablets account for 3-1/2 hours across all age groups and 3-3/4 hours for Millennials.
Yet another challenge for advertisers, of course, is how much their ads, regardless of the medium, are actually viewed.
Most of us have probably never heard of Mario Kreutzberger, but tens of millions of TV viewers here in the U.S. and throughout Latin America know him well as Don Francisco, host of Sabado Gigante.
The show aired its final episode last night, after 53 continuous years with Mario Kreutzberger/Don Francisco as the host. The show, which ran for 4 hours each Saturday evening, has long been a must-watch. It's hard to describe ... a combination of game show, audience participation, variety show, celebrity performances and interviews, skits and heart-wrenching human interest pieces, all pulled together and kept fast-paced and lively by Kreutzberger, now 72. Product placement was always a big part of the show, long before marketers knew the term.
Spanish TV's biggest star is an unlikely one. The Chilean-born son of Jewish-German immigrants, he began his TV career doing brief comedy segments on a local TV station in Chile in 1962. The show expanded in format and distribution in the 1970s, aired throughout most of Latin America. In 1986, the show moved to Miami when it began airing on Univision, giving it broad distribution in the U.S. while continuing to dominate throughout Latin America.
The final Sábado Gigante drew 3.4 million total viewers, and it ranked first among the 18-49 demos in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix. Don Francisco also drew personal farewells on-air from President Obama and the First Lady, Marc Anthony, Plácido Domingo and Shakira.
I used to watch parts of the show periodically, as a way to practice my high-school Spanish. And ok, I'll admit, I didn't mind seeing the show's many long-legged muchachas dancing and bouncing around in short, tight skirts. But Don Francisco had a certain personality that kept me watching, even if I couldn't understand every word.
Kreutzberger has long been a solid supporter of charities and various causes. In interviews, he said he plans to continue that work and promises we'll see him from time to time on specials for Univision.
Last night's cable TV schedule included two notable shows.
The first, while termed by most as a political debate, seemed at times more like a much-hyped reality show. It had all the elements of reality shows that we've come to expect -- outbursts and outrageous name-calling by contestants, teasers by the hosts (in this case, moderators posing as journalists) before going to commercial breaks, and above all, the chance to win a really big prize. I have to admit, it was great theater when moderator Megan Kelly went after the rich guy from New York about his flip-flopping on positions and parties.
I caught only the second half of the program, but it was enough to convince me that I am not one of the target voters the candidates are hoping to enthrall. It seems they're looking for Christians who talk to God, believe women should have no choice when it comes to their own bodies, and that this nation built of immigrants should close the door on them -- or at least, build a wall.
A couple of the candidates, even though I don't agree with their position on most issues, did come across as dignified and potential leaders of this great nation. Jeb Bush and John Kasich both presented themselves well, I think.
The hype and the nastiness of some candidates served to make this a bonanza for Fox, which probably drew ratings to rival past presidential rather than party debates.
The other notable TV moment last night was Jon Stewart's final Daily Show.
I've never been a regular follower of the show. I like Stewart, but if I'm up at 11, I'm watching the local news, Charlie Rose or Seinfeld reruns.
Stewart's final piece seemed a perfect balance to the GOP debacle (er, debate) that had just wrapped. Stewart's parting words, before protégé Stephen Colbert introduced Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, were a caution against misinformation -- or in Stewart's words, bullsh*t.
When it comes to preferences in music, movies and media, different age groups don't agree on much. But a recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials do agree on which news sources they feel they can least trust.
All age groups say sources they trust least for accurate reporting are Buzzfeed and three widely-syndicated conservative radio shows hosted by Glenn beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Although many listen to the opinionated radio shows, they may tune in more for the entertainment value than for trustworthy news reporting.
The Pew study found more of a discrepancy by age groups when asked which news sources they can trust. Millennials (ages 19-34) say they rely on two faux-news shows, The Daily Show and the recently-ended Colbert Report. Almost as scary is that this group also lists Al Jazeera America as one its most-trusted sources of news. Boomers and Gen Xers, maybe with wisdom that comes with age, said they don't rely on any of those programs for reliable information. They say they get much of their news from local TV.
Troubling, to me at least, is that newspapers didn't figure into the picture for reliable news. (And where do you think local TV gets many of its story leads? The morning paper.)
For 24 years, Bob Schieffer has helped make sense out of what too often seems like a senseless place -- Washington DC. As host of CBS' Face the Nation every Sunday morning, he'd ask tough questions of those we pay to represent us.
In his closing broadcast today, he said he's enjoyed every bit of the 58 years he's spent as a reporter.
Good luck, Bob, and thanks for your probing and your insights.
With the end of David Letterman's 22-year run in CBS' 11:35 p.m. spot, the network seems to be missing a real opportunity to keep a hold on the late-night spot. But instead, they're pretty much giving up on it until September when Stephen Colbert begins his new show.
In the meantime, CBS has an hour of "The Mentalist" reruns filling the hole between the local news and the promising new talk show being done by James Corden, who took over Craig Ferguson's spot a few months ago. When it was a first-run series, "The Mentalist" did pretty well for CBS. But now that the show is out of production, it becomes one of many re-runs that can be seen late-night on local affiliates and on cable.
Dropping the late-night talk show format at 11:35 puts CBS back in the dark days before they hired Letterman. Although he consistently trailed Jay Leno in the ratings, Letterman did build a solid and loyal following that was a profit center for CBS – more so than the reruns that had filled that time slot for many years.
So I can't understand why CBS is just giving up the slot. If I were CBS CEO Les Moonves, I'd do one of two things.
If Letterman would permit it, I'd run a "Best of Letterman" series of reruns until the new guy comes on board. It would hold the Letterman fans, and after all the hype of the past several weeks, it would probably draw lots of new viewers who never watched Letterman but would now tune in out of curiosity about what they've missed all these years.
If Letterman doesn't want to license those shows to CBS, preferring to have his final show mark the end of him on TV at all, there's another option. Start re-running past Late Late Shows with James Corden. There aren't a lot of them yet, but showing them at 11:35 might build an audience for him in his 12:35 spot.
Actually, there's yet another option which CBS already tried when Craig Ferguson left. During the few months before Corden started, CBS had a series of guest hosts, including many show biz people who you wouldn't expect to see in that role. Some turned out to be pretty good doing soft interviews, and at the least it kept the talk show format alive in that time slot on CBS.
It seems that CBS is just throwing in the towel at 11:35, waiting for Colbert. But as viewers surf over to Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, they'll get comfortable with either or both Jimmy's, and some won't come back – even for Stephen Colbert.
It makes sense to me, but what do I know? I'm not getting anywhere close to the $54.4 million Les Moonves earns, so he must know a lot more than I do. Maybe.