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Size Matters, But So Does Reach

Part 1
Some purists in our community have been complaining about the seemingly endless Michael Jackson coverage on national broadcast and cable television outlets. They have pointed out to Shoptalk (and anyone else who will listen) that important news like the coup in Honduras, trade legislation, Iran and the sentence for Bernie Madoff is taking a backseat on cable news and network broadcasts. If you are in that camp, however, you must have been in a cave the past decade and you might as well save your breath (and your venom!)

It’s been well known since O.J. took off in the white Bronco that linear media like television lose audience dramatically when they shift away from big, salacious stories that a majority of Americans care about. Like it or not, the death of Michael Jackson is one of those stories. This isn’t a case of the media “guessing” that folks are interested. They know people are interested based not only on their own overnight ratings, but also on the millions of hits that flooded Google and almost crashed a number of websites late last week. For their business, they are doing the right thing.

The internet (and the web-delivered mobile world it serves) is not linear. (Oddly enough, the internet is more like a newspaper than your digitally delivered cable news in HD.) Because it’s not linear, the internet can serve users spellbound by the King of Pop story while also delivering up-to-date information about the protests in Iran and the sentencing of Bernie Madoff. And because of that, users can count on an internet service more than a TV news service, since TV can only deliver one story at a time. That will usually give msnbc.com and cnn.com and nyt.com the advantage over television in reach the total number of people who actually use a service in the course of a day or a week. Some of those services might well also have higher ratings which are measured, obviously, in a point of time. Tomorrow in this space, I’ll post on some thoughts on “fusion ratings” now being offered by Nielsen to measure total viewers/users spanning a multi-platform service like CNN, which is saying that reach matters more than size (or at least as much.)

Part 2 will appear in tomorrow’s ShopTalk.

Erik Sorenson is chief executive officer of Vault.com, Inc. He oversees the strategic direction of the global, New York-based media company, including ShopTalk & TVSPY. If you would like to comment on Remote Control, or want to reach Erik, email remotecontrol@tvspy.

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