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Gannaway: Stations' Web Guru

Perhaps no one spends more time focusing on the intersection of television and the Web than Gary Gannaway. The president and CEO of WorldNow manages the Websites for over 200 stations, including Raycom and LIN, and just closed a deal to manage the online ad inventory for ABC reality program Supernanny. Before WorldNow, Gannaway founded the syndication company Genesis Entertainment, which he sold to Ron Perelman for roughly $80 million in 1994. Prior to hosting a NATPE panel on “Generating Digital Bucks,” Gannaway spoke with B&C's Michael Malone about how the Web can best serve television.

Stations' Web revenue is maybe 2%-3% of their total revenue. When does that become a 50-50 Web/on-air split?

I don't believe that's possible in a large market, but Barrington Broadcasting [co-founder] Chris Cornelius, who has mostly stations in smaller markets, has an audacious goal. In five years, he wants to see Internet cash flow as big as broadcast cash flow. When you think of John F. Kennedy saying we'll put a man on the moon in 10 years, why can't broadcasters see their Web/wireless revenue exceed broadcast revenue in 5-10 years?

What do stations need to do to get there?

The first thing is having people working [solely] on the Web. You'll see expertise in online automotive. You'll see expertise in premium directories, such as health and home. You'll see stations sell sponsorships to content. Weather content is timely—you have different advertisers reaching different audiences at different times of day. But where it's going to be most viable for broadcasters is the selling of video. It's not just selling video on the Web, it's selling on mobile.

Newspapers seem to be consistently beating stations in terms of local online revenue. How does TV fix that?

Newspapers focused on classifieds because they had to—the dollars were going to pure-plays like and So newspapers had to come up with a classified strategy to capture these dollars. We're seeing a seminal shift in people going to local [TV] sites, and we're not seeing that growth with newspaper sites. I think it's because of video. Video captures their imagination. It's almost akin to the '60s with color TV.

What's new about the way the presidential candidates are using the Web?

It's no longer the CNN debate, it's the YouTube debate, and ABC's debate in New Hampshire focused on Facebook. One focused on user-generated content and one focused on social networking. What's different is that the people are asking questions of the candidates, not just the commentator.

In Davenport, Iowa, WQAD came out with 11 key issues on its Website. If you answer these questions, they'd tell you the candidate that most likely lines up with your point of view. The Website did 1.2 million unique visitors—there's not a million people in Davenport!

Which candidate has the best Web strategy?

Ron Paul by far—look at the amount of money he's collected. We can laugh and say there's no way he'll win, but he's raised a crazy amount of money online.

We see station Websites with pet photos, cars for sale, etc. Are they going in the right direction?

Most stations that try to put up a lot of content for a lot of specific needs end up not seeing traffic to those pages. The station doesn't have the promotional time to let people know it exists, and when you get to the site, the navigation and search is so bad you'll never know it exists. It's like going to a restaurant and not having items on the menu, not having the waiter tell you about them, and you're expected to know they're there.

How big a role should user-generated content play in local TV?

I don't want to say it's a fad, but I don't think it's going to be nearly as important. Here's where it works., a site for high school sports. There's smack talk—kids, players, coaches talking about the game beforehand. Some kids are going to focus on the cheerleaders, some on the band members. Just like a Justin Timberlake concert, you see people with cellphones capturing shots of the games as long as there's a local portal for them to put those shots on. But that smack talk, that's the user-generated video that's exciting, because it's all about relevancy to that community. It's people interacting in a forum who are highly charged about something.

If we give kids an outlet for their small groups and make them larger, we're taking the behavior that exists and bringing it to Web 2.0.