Monday, July 21, 2008

The Birth of a New KDKA Blog

It’s always fun when the things I’m learning in my Master’s Degree program dovetail with things that are going on at the TV station. It feels good when my learning allows me contribute to the success and health of my company in new ways. And it gets me excited again about the possibilities for the future of a business that a lot of people say is dying.

For the past several months we’ve been talking a lot about how to make our website,, even better. Right now our site traffic is consistently second in the chain of CBS owned and operated TV stations, coming in ahead of giant markets like LA, New York, Miami and Chicago. But we’re always being challenged not only to increase traffic, but to increase time spent at our site.

One of the ways we’re doing that is by encouraging more of our reporters and anchors to blog. Right now we have 12 blogs on the site, 10 local, 2 produced by CBS and distributed to all of the owned and operated stations. Our local blogs range from one that answers viewer health questions written by our medical reporter, Dr. Maria Simbra, to a blog about road construction and transportation issues written by our traffic reporter Jim Lokay. Even producers are getting in on the act: web producer Angela Taylor writes about her passion for the Young and the Restless, and sports producer Mike Vukovcan keeps readers up to date on the latest scoop from inside the Pirates organization.

One of the things I don’t like about our blog page right now is that it isn’t engaging. The way it’s set up, the blogs all appear by title, but in no particular order. There’s no way of knowing which blog has new information posted, or even what’s inside the blog. In other words, there’s nothing to guide you. How would you know from the headline on reporter Mary Robb Jackson’s blog called (duh!) “Mary Robb Jackson’s Blog” that inside you would find the emotional story of Mary Robb’s adopted daughter Mariel’s travels to meet her birth mother for the first time?

Contrast this with one of my favorite company blogs, Direct2Dell, a “blog about Dell Products, Services and Customers.” Like the KDKA blog, it’s written by Dell employees, including everyone from vice-presidents to customer service reps. But the set up and layout of the site is, in my opinion, much more intuitive than the blog page.

Sign on to the Dell blog, and you’ll find one or two main posts of the day – almost like a lead story in a television newscast (see where I’m going with this?). To the right of the main blog is the list of other categories where employees may also be blogging or answering customer questions. Someone (probably lead blogger Lionel Menchaca) has decided, of all of the blogs written that day, which are the most newsworthy or of the most general interest to be the main blog, and Menchaca writes the lead post on days when it needs to be an over-arching message that’s not specific to a particular subject category. He also writes a week in review on the weekends, summing up the discussion at the blog that week. My guess is that Menchaca also prods his colleagues to write posts when he believes that the most important story of the day for Dell is something in their area of expertise. He may even be the one who makes sure customer service is monitoring the blog for consumer complaints and answering their questions.

My hope is that the future KDKA blog will look a lot like the Dell page, with a “lead” story relevant to the day’s news or to what people are talking about, and the list of all blogs marching from top to bottom on the right. For example, expect me to blog early on about the avalanche of viewer e-mail I get about why television newscasts “tease” so much. I’ll probably also blog early on (or get my consumer reporter Yvonne Zanos to blog) about the frequent viewer e-mail we receive related to on-line scams. When there’s a big court case going on, I’ll certainly get our veteran reporter, Harold Hayes, to blog about the behind the scenes scoop he observes. When a big weekend construction project threatens to cause traffic nightmares, Jim Lokay’s blog will be featured that day. And if I had been chief blogger when Mary Robb wrote the blog about her daughter, that would certainly have been front page news!

No comments: