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Coming Up At 11! Viewers Don't Care

Here's a sobering study if you're a news director or marketer: A new survey by news consultants Frank N. Magid Associates concludes that despite all the media out there, the best way to promote your newscast is still over your own air. And even that's not all that effective.

The study was featured in a session at the Promax&BDA conference last week, but its conclusions were old news: Don't over-promise, and don't be disappointed if your news promotion still doesn't turn a non-news watcher into a viewer of your newscast. Studies have long shown that no promotion will get a non-news-watching viewer to become one, and the majority of those who see news promos don't remember them.

Of the 2,200 news viewers that Magid surveyed, only 32% could remember a specific promotion for a local newscast. Out of those, 64% said the spot motivated them to watch, but 35% said it didn't. And 30% said that seeing a news promo might actually cause them to turn away from the newscast altogether.

As for getting viewers to watch, the station's own air is always its best bet, which is part of the reason that a station with a weak prime time schedule has difficulty finding and sometimes keeping viewers. The study said 86% of those who said they recalled a recent news promo said they had seen it on that station.

After that, cable TV and radio should be the promotion department's next choices, Magid said.

"Print media, interactive and outdoor advertising show little punch in driving home promotional messages or in strongly motivating viewers to watch," the Magid study reported, adding "When deciding between cable or radio, bear in mind that cable seems to get more consistent results across market sizes."

But wherever an ad runs, stations run a risk of inadvertently promoting the other guy's newscast while they are supposedly promoting their own.

According to Magid, viewers' news habits already are so ingrained that 41% of those surveyed said if they saw a news promo for a story to be featured on a newscast they don't usually watch, they would change the channel to their favorite newscast expecting to see the same story there.

According to Sandi Yost Gehring, the Magid senior consultant who presented the study, stations need to use promotions to "drive up interest" in the particular story they are promoting and they need to "drive up attribution" for the station by "communicating ownership of the story." In other words, make sure viewers know what station they're watching and make sure they know it's different.

"And that does not mean tacking 'exclusive' or 'only' on to every story you promote, but taking a different angle from that of your competitor," Gehring said.

While Magid recommends sticking with what's coming up on stations' local newscasts, the study cautioned not to overpromote stories so as not to cause what Magid dubbed "anticippointment."

"When you make promises to your viewers, you need to keep them," Gehring said. "Nothing disappoints more than a great promotion for a bad story. If the promo oversells the story or if it is irrelevant to the story, viewers will be disappointed."

Moreover, promo overkill will have a "boy who cries wolf" effect on viewers, so that they will stop believing news promos. "Nothing numbs viewers to future promotion like a great promo for a bad story."

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.