The New User Engagement? Stick a Pin In It
News Organizations Pin Hopes on Social Media
It takes a standout start-up to break through the jammed social media landscape, but that appears to be what’s happening with Pinterest for Scripps in West Palm Beach. Fla., as well as in the corporate office. About three months ago, Jeff Brogan, news director at Scripps’ WPTV, had seen enough mentions of the so-called “online pinboard” platform known as Pinterest on Facebook to ask his wife about it. Brogan’s missus was wellversed in the ways of Pinterest, and as a newsroom exec, Brogan was curious about how he could use the platform to extend the market leader’s brand and reach users on the go.
“You’re competing with so many different voices today,” Brogan says. “You can’t be on all of them, but it’s foolish not to explore all the opportunities out there.”
As Brogan suggests, the newsroom denizen with a grasp of every last social media flavor of the month probably gets zero real work done; countless newsroom managers are happy to finally have a good idea of how to use Facebook and Twitter to get the station’s content on more screens. But Palo-Alto, Calif.-based Pinterest, which allows users to share everything from photos to recipes to wedding photos on digital bulletin boards, has managed to wiggle above the pack, at least for the moment.
Chip Mahaney, the Scripps group’s senior director of local operations, is encouraging the stations to experiment with Pinterest. In the fall, he watched it go from zero to 60 in blazing fashion. “It went from nothing to really something big in just a couple of weeks,” Mahaney says. “Here we are now, and it doesn’t seem to be abating.”
Pinterest execs did not respond to an email seeking more information. “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the Web,” reads the description on Pinterest.com. “People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes and organize their favorite recipes.”
TV stations around the U.S. are not, by and large, deploying Pinterest. Some local TV managers want to see the copyright issues that have dogged Pinterest play out. (“Pinterest respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same,” reads the site). Some deride it as too femaleskewing, or too frilly for a hard news outfit.
Others in local TV say they have never heard of Pinterest or are only marginally interested. “There may be some things down the road, but for now it’s not a priority,” says Pat LaPlatney, VP of digital media at Raycom.
Yet some see Pinterest as a useful tool for gathering user content and, similar to Facebook, offering a compelling look at users’ interests— and their purchasing habits. “We’re watching its rocket growth closely and evaluating what we can learn to make our local ad platforms more effective,” says Timur Yarnall, CEO of tech solutions firm Broadcast Interactive Media (BIM).
Some TV stations, including WSVN Miami, are dipping a toe in the Pinterest pond. A few others, such as WPTV, have jumped in head- first. About a month ago, Mollie Reynolds, WPTV social media reporter, set up seven Pinterest boards, covering everything from behind the scenes in the newsroom to weather photos to pictures of pets. Most popular is the behindthe- scenes board, with 106 followers as of the middle of last week.
It’s a modest start, but it’s a start nonetheless. “It’s more of a marketing ploy for us,” Reynolds says. “It’s not necessarily to drive viewers to television, but to get our brand on another platform.”
Back at Scripps’ corporate office, Mahaney says Pinterest has attained something that’s eluded social media hotshots like Google+: its users adore it. “I’ve never seen the adoption of anything, except maybe the iPad, quite like this,” he says. “People get on and get it quickly, and immediately have a connection to it.”
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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.