More and more TV stations – and cable news channels – are going aggressively into social networking, especially Facebook and Twitter.  CNN has a daily show on at 3 every afternoon with Rick Sanchez that feeds off those two sites.  Why so much focus?  In our case at WZZM, it’s all part of our strategy to connect with current and future customers where they are.  CNN says Rick’s show is now #1 in its time period.  There’s something here.

    A new study, written about in TV Newsday,  shows we’re currently half right.  Crawford, Johnson and Northcutt, along with Brand Amplitude, studied 18-30 year olds who are active online.  One key finding was this:

 In a series of online focus groups, young adults across the country indicated a strong interest in local information and said they would welcome the availability of that information on their turf — social networking sites. Further, they said that a local television station would make an impression with them if it had a presence on those sites.

   But it also points out these people are not necessarily going to turn on TV newscasts right now, except in the case of breaking news.

    Here’s what interesting to me.  10 years, even 5 years ago, we weren’t that worried about whether teenagers were going to start watching our newscasts anytime soon.  Now, I hear and read about that more and more.  Most teens I know do not care about local news – yet. They care about weather, snow and school closings and whether the football team won on Friday night.  So we do have some connection with that group right now.  Obviously, we’re all hoping this pays off when today’s 18-year old becomes 25 or 26.

    I also know from looking at my Facebook group that more and more 30 and 40-somethings are joining – and research backs that up.  So, we are hitting our current customers using these tools as well. 

   And what I keep wondering about is this – what’s next?  What’s the next Twitter, Facebook?

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My boss, Janet Mason, sent me this Miami Herald article earlier today.  In it, David Bohrman of CNN was speaking about the state of our industry at the same conference Laurie Cirivello of CMC and the Foundation’s Roberta King attended to discuss how to launch the Neighborhood News Bureaus.

I want to quote just one small part of the article, in which I think Bohrman hit it on the head:

”Local newscasts, when they’re good, are the centerpiece at most stations,” he argues. “And I think that there’s a largely untapped mother lode of hyper-local information that stations can use to good effect. You want to know if that road two blocks over is under repair, if you’ll be able to get to Safeway or not. I’m intrigued by that. I don’t see anyone seriously accessing it yet, but someone will.”

Hyper-local information is what these bureaus should be able to help the community find out what is happening around the corner to such a level traditional media cannot.

Bohrman also discussed how the media should embrace social networking tools and not be afraid.  Personally, I have found the best way to understand and embrace is to jump in.  6 months ago, I was not the bloggin’, twittin’, Facebookin’, LinkedIn’er (?) I am today!  And, frankly, I feel a lot more connected because of it.