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Editorial: Mind Your Store

Heading into the 2010 NAB show this week in Las Vegas and the heart of the upfront presentations in New York next month, there is a palpable sense of optimism creeping into the industry. While the smiles may be more about a stemming of the industry-wide free fall than a true V-shaped recovery, beggars can’t be choosers these days.

And as crucial as it is to become hyper-focused on fiscal responsibility when the economy starts to fall into a down cycle, it is also massively important to have flawless strategy when the financial ice finally begins to thaw.

If there is new money coming in, whether from an advertising uptick, however slight, or retransmission consent dollars, it is tempting to tuck away the cash and pad the bottom line to make things look even better than they are.

But that is the wrong move. Now is the time to invest. Now is the time to scrounge together whatever cash you have on hand and sink it right back into whatever your version is of R&D.

And no place is that more necessary than at the station level. You simply must be investing in your strongest possible cross-platform, hyper-local play. Because, we promise you, your competition is.

And we don’t just mean the other stations in town, because if you are projecting more money coming in this year, so, too, are others who see dollar signs in local plays.

Your competition no longer necessarily shares your ZIP code. It now could be coming from places like Bristol, Conn., or New York or Atlanta down the road.

The sports world is seeing it first-hand with ESPN’s truly intelligent local play in several markets across the country, most recently in New York. By leveraging its national brand with a handful of big-name local hires in targeted markets, the network has quickly become a player in the fight for local ad dollars.

And we can’t see how the same won’t happen on the news side. While CNN has yet to get into that game, it seems just a matter of time before CNN, or someone else, does if there is money to be had.

So, if indeed this recovery is real—and we’re not convinced— now is not the time to hunker down and wait for the cash to come in and make up for a tough couple of years. Whether it is investing in programming or broadening out your digital strategy, now is the time to invest. Because whether it is the enemy across town or raiders from afar, everyone else knows better times may be ahead, and they are readying to pounce on your backyard.