Ruler In The Snow – Hi-tech Twist to Old Schtick

Sometimes, the best new ideas are innovative approaches to old ones.  Case in point, WITI-TV in Milwaukee has a hit on their hands with their SNOWSTICK.   Yup! That old schtick where the reporter sticks the ruler in the snow to “prove” the snow depth – it’s now a major online feature for the station.

HOW THEY MAKE IT WORK AND MY THOUGHTS ON NEXT PAGE: Continue reading “Ruler In The Snow – Hi-tech Twist to Old Schtick”

When the big storm comes, change your site

Steve Safran, with MediaReInvent, is out with this important weather reminder:

With the onset of hurricane season, and the first significant storm threat we’ve faced this year, it’s important that you’re ready for the emergency. I don’t mean having plenty of supplies on hand or having lots of meetings. I mean for your web presence — especially that front page of yours. In a big, breaking news emergency, you have to change it.
During the California wildfires in October 2007, KFMB did an outstanding job altering its website to give exclusive coverage to the fires.

KFMB wildfire page

Read the rest of Steve’s post at his blog.

Time to talk to your audience about storm warning change

Beginning on April 1st, the National Weather Service will change the way it issues Thunderstorm warnings.
Right now, to be classified as a thunderstorm, a cell must contain 65 mph winds and 3/4″ hail.
On April 1, that standard changes to hail 1 inch in diameter.

The benefit of increasing the hail criteria up to 1″ is that we estimate about 40% fewer Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. This has been tested in Kansas for the past 3 years or so, and the media, emergency managers and the public really like the change. Also, recent damage assessment studies indicated that it takes 1″ or larger hail to produce damage to structures or autos.

Here is a link to a government video explaining the change

Beyond ‘Stormwatch’: Better Ways to Cover the Weather

P.J Bednarski, in B&C recently pointed out all the dumb ways we covered weather on local television. His examples came from watching coverage during a recent storm.

Tree down on Beresford Way; only one of the storm casualties
Tree down on Beresford Way; only one of the storm casualties

Benasrski said:

Here are the ones I saw on Stormwatch—again—that I think should be retired:

  • Talking to one disgruntled and one still-cheerful passenger at the snowed-in airport
  • Going to a hardware store to document the lack of snow shovels
  • Leaning into a car going nowhere and asking how bad the road conditions are
  • Interviewing Christmas shoppers while the equivalent of a jet turbine blows snow in their faces.
  • Skipping the middleman and being the station’s snow guinea pig, but this time, you have the yardstick
  • Talking to the sanitation chief about the city’s supply of rock salt and available drivers.
  • And don’t forget this chestnut: Watching kids sled or build a snowman
  • Truthfully, if stations want to save some money this year, I suggest this: Use file footage. One car from 2008 skidding into a guardrail is not much different than the car that did the same dance in 2004. You’re not actually documenting an accident. You’re illustrating a condition.
  • Kids have shoveled out neighborhood cars for years. You spent a fortune on archival capacity for your newsroom. And you did this story in 2006 Use it again. Just edit out the reporter you have since laid off.

So what is the craziest thing you saw?  Anyone have any great ideas to improve?

Too Much TV Weather? Milwaukee Battle Lines

Interesting weather battle shaping up in my old market, Milwaukee. WITI-FOX 6 is running two promos the across bow of longtime ratings opponent WTMJ-4. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  TV critic Tim Cuprisin liked to call the market’s chronic weather over coverage Stormageddon.

Trust me, both stations in this battle are aggressive weather warriors.  In Milwaukee, ratings go up during storms and both stations will, again, be aggressive.

Some tips reduce your competition’s traction with ads like these:

1. Devote editorial staff to manage tickers/crawls.  Keep them accurate, fresh & drop them the minute they become dated.   I’ve seen too many stations running school closings at 9:30 in the morning or chuch closings at 8pm.

2. Viewers will watch wall-to-wall coverage if it is fresh, new, and relevent.  Insist reporters listen to each other so they are not repeating each other’s content.

3. Keep the silliness to a minimum.  Reporters explaining to me how they dressed for the weather, sticking a ruler in the snow bank, and showing me how to scrape my car’s windshield, all add to the sense that this is not important storm information.

Several research projects I’ve seen in the past year reveal that viewers are looking for a newscast that “doesn’t waste my time.”  Applying that to storm coverage may be a stretch, especially if your message is – “the other guy’s will have more coverage than we do.. “