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Pat LaPlatney: Digital Storm Hero

While a razor-sharp digital strategy is key for any TV station group, Raycom can make the case that it’s even more vital for its stations, several of which are in markets that are prone to severe weather, such as the tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa, Ala., earlier this year. Raycom, which recently released station apps for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry systemwide, has been particularly tenacious about educating its viewers about the availability of these mobile offerings, which serve as crucial lifelines if and when the power goes out and the TV is rendered mute.

After the Alabama storm, Raycom’s affected stations, and their Web and mobile sites, not only provided the breaking news, but offered ongoing updates on where essential services, such as gasoline, groceries and FEMA, could be located. “We’ve been training viewers to download our mobile apps, and we did a pretty good job educating them,” says Pat LaPlatney, VP of digital media for Raycom.

Based out of Raycom’s Montgomery, Ala., headquarters, LaPlatney is also focused on rolling out mobile DTV, which also is an invaluable tether for viewers when disaster strikes the community. Raycom is part of the mobile DTV initiative Pearl. LaPlatney says six of Raycom’s 46 owned or operated stations currently transmit live digital TV signals to smartphones.

Seeing the vast revenue potential in local online media, LaPlatney is increasingly pushing Raycom’s couponing initiative at the station level. He says local media outlets are in a prime position to grab market share from the national deals giants such as Groupon and Living Social. “Groupon does not have a TV station or a local news site,” he says. “We have the ability to offer a unique set of media tools for advertisers. We can do things on our sites, on-air, to help grow their business and be a good local partner for them.”

Raycom has shown a knack for staying ahead of the station pack on the digital front. It was the first to partner with the new African-American digital channel, Bounce TV, and was ahead of almost all station groups in partnering with DataSphere on hyperlocal community sites. LaPlatney recently convened a few dozen of these sites’ “community content producers” and DataSphere execs in Charlotte, N.C., to share best practices in the growing street-level content space. “We’re into it, and it’s working,” he says.

At 52, LaPlatney knows he may be one of the more mature Digital All-Stars around. “I’m not a digital native,” he says with a laugh. “Watching all of this develop has been fascinating.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.