Lee Abrams' Dream Show Involves Gravy Stains

In his latest think piece, Tribune Co. Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams describes his idea for a TV news crime show:

During the newscast you "switch" to the WXXX Crime Bureau. There you have an ex- cop type whose "seen it all"---rough at the edges. Gravy stains on his shirt. It's all about crime not the slick" look". In this room--preferable cement walled and authentic, the ex Cop crime expert reports on the crimes...SHOWS weapons (Here's the home burglar's weapon of choice...)...tells stories (Back in 82 I busted some guy....). Has "insights" as in 'ok folks, its Thursday tomorrow--historically, carjackings will be up 40%---Lock your car door'. He has maps and charts and other old school non-slick visual aids like stick pins.

The idea is to create something incredibly real and credible. Deliberately NOT too polished. Makes the typical local crime reporting on the competitors look silly. If typical slick TV crime reporting is the clean cut standard TV looks, this is a balance of the gritty Law & Order and the old non nonsense Dragnet.

If you find the right guy, he could become a folk hero.

Then...on the Web! A crime busters info paradise with pages and pages of crime stats, trends etc...

The magic of this is that it's an important area and NO-ONE is stepping out a claiming it.

Then...branding the whole thing so you quickly become the undisputed media crime fighter in the region.

I don't think this would cost much at all.

The funny thing is that Abrams wrote just about the same description on a piece reprinted on Romenesko back in June of last year. For some reason, nobody's jumping at his idea.  

Full text comes after the jump.

THINK PIECE: CLICHE BUSTING AND INNOVATION BARRIERS

The Baltimore Sun has begun putting their front page meeting online--From the Sun:

On the page, we've added a logo and some text explaining the meeting process. We're also putting together a dictionary of news jargon as a reference to words and phrases the audience is likely to hear during the meeting.

http://
origin-www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-livestream-video,1,6665414.htmlstory
Once our CAR is approved (it's a very small CAR related to items that will improve the quality of the streaming video), we will be looking to change the format of the meeting so it's less dry and more entertaining. We'll be looking to transform the Mencken Room into the Mencken Studio, so we can use it for other purposes, particularly types of streaming video that we can monetize.

In the spirit of cliché busting:

Michael O'Connor sent this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ws58s9wzYsA
Stations actually sound like that...and continue to sound like that!

And from Onion TV http://
www.theonion.com/content/video/are_violent_video_games

TV stations look and sound like that, and continue to sound and look like that!

And for those who think newspapers are terminal:

http://nbm.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451b8c069e20112791b790d28a4-pi

We have some pretty innovative people on our Internet side. On one hand, you have to be innovative because the Internet is still being invented, but what I wonder is why that same level of innovation isn't happening at TV and print. At a few recent travels, I was overwhelmed with ideas from the web group, but on the print and TV side, while everyone was working their hides off, the focus wasn't on coming up with new angles...new ways of presenting and marketing the content. In reality, print and TV needs it MORE than ever in terms of being battered by declining revenues and relevancy.

In posing this question, the answers were usually:

*Can't innovate with lower headcount

*We already are innovating

*No time

Well, I don't think those are really good answers. I just don't think our mind sets are focused on new angles as much as they should be. It takes NO more time to do something different and more interesting and it's really all about an approach to thinking than headcounts or schedules. It's something that needs to be in our genes. PUSHED from top down. Don't you know that there are way too many cases of "I'd love to do ____, but____won't let me", or "Can I grab you for a second...don't tell______, but we really should be doing_____instead of_____."

Somehow, we need to overcome that anti innovative environment that plagues the entire media business. We're getting better at it, but still a long way to go. When I was a broadcast consultant, there were some stations that had huge ratings...others that did not. The big differentiator was attitude toward innovation. The common innovation barriers were;

*Well, we had a committee meeting and just couldn't decide.

*We need to research that first.

*(Put boss here) would never let us do that!

*We're still discussing it.

*We're afraid to try that....to risky.

*According to (put marketing expert here) that approach won't work.

*We tried it and it didn't work (usually buried to insure no-one would notice it in the first place

*A 'change is dangerous" attitude vs. a Change is critical attitude.

Today, we still hear those kinds of things around the company. And a lot of our products are not moving ahead fast enough or NOTICABLY enough. I'm sure you see that. But, the #1 excuse is "that our Internet guys are doing the innovating". Yes, they are...but we ALL have to!

It has nothing to do with News & Information itself. We are generally great at that...its presentation and marketing of it that needs attention. This isn't back burner stuff. If your TV station looks and sounds like everyone else ad ISN'T #1, why isn't it being fixed? If a newspaper is getting back its footing, at least creatively, time to keep pushing it.

We don't make tech devices, but just because a big chunk our business isn't pure technology that doesn't mean we don't have to reinvent ourselves with the same fervor:

"You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give it to them.
By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."


--- Steve Jobs

In the content innovation AFDI area--

CONTENT INNOVATION NOT OPTIONAL: While it's critical on the web, print and TV GM/Pubs often view it as optional. It costs NOTHING. It's a style of thinking that is missing. In fact their "innovation in content is not a priority" flows throughout the station/paper and it only contributes to "average" presentation being acceptable.

THE FEAR FACTOR: We still have it. Looking for reasons something will fail instead of looking for ways to make it happen.

INNOVATION IN TECHNOLOGY vs. TOTAL INNOVATION: Oh...we're leading innovation....on the web (!). What about the CORE products. A TV web site might be amazing but if the station sucks....

A VISION & GAME PLAN IN EVERY BUSINESS UNIT: To the rank and file, the only vision is cost cutting. We know that it's critical, but to an employee they need a stronger, well, VISION that is what they're striving for beyond economic salvation. Our leadership often delivers s NO vision beyond 'saving our butts'. They see economic doom instead of a plan...

COMMUNICATION! 99% of the game plan never finds its way past the executive conference room. It's not a 4x a year staff meeting. It's EVERY hour...EVERY day. The "message" in the Tower windows needs to scream loudly at every unit...on every desk.

Talked a little about Crime reporting last week and the great job many papers including the Morning Call is doing.

A big part of newspaper re-invention is in OWNING Crime reporting. Reasons:

*Few do. We tend to "assume" we own it, but everyone is reporting the same crimes, the same way, and it cancels out.

*There are plenty of National crime buster shows...but WE are the last bastions of LOCAL!

*It's important and we tend to throw it away, or simply keep it generic. Maybe we should treat it like Weather...and start to OWN it.

A possibility:


During the newscast you "switch" to the WXXX Crime Bureau. There you have an ex- cop type whose "seen it all"---rough at the edges. Gravy stains on his shirt. It's all about crime not the slick" look". In this room--preferable cement walled and authentic, the ex Cop crime expert reports on the crimes...SHOWS weapons (Here's the home burglar's weapon of choice...)...tells stories (Back in 82 I busted some guy....). Has "insights" as in 'ok folks, its Thursday tomorrow--historically, carjackings will be up 40%---Lock your car door'. He has maps and charts and other old school non-slick visual aids like stick pins.

The idea is to create something incredibly real and credible. Deliberately NOT too polished. Makes the typical local crime reporting on the competitors look silly. If typical slick TV crime reporting is the clean cut standard TV looks, this is a balance of the gritty Law & Order and the old non nonsense Dragnet.

If you find the right guy, he could become a folk hero.

Then...on the Web! A crime busters info paradise with pages and pages of crime stats, trends etc...

The magic of this is that it's an important area and NO-ONE is stepping out a claiming it.

Then...branding the whole thing so you quickly become the undisputed media crime fighter in the region.

I don't think this would cost much at all.

FROM SEATTLE:

Lee-- Thanks for the ideas and it was good to meet you during your visit to Seattle. Curious about your thoughts on this and it might be something to try and roll out at some of our other stations. In November we killed a long-time public affairs show we were doing here in Seattle--it was stale and boring and not doing any ratings. Replaced it with Washington's Most Wanted... our LOCAL version of America's Most Wanted that airs every Friday and Saturday night on our stations. The show's growth has been beyond our expectations: on the air 19 weeks and captured 23 fugitives directly due to viewers who saw our show (or criminals who saw the show and turned themselves in); we syndicated the show to other partner stations in Washington so there's more potential revenue on a statewide basis; the web section for WMW is now our top franchise page; we have a retired veteran cop who worked on the Green River killings case on the show with a personal safety report each week; and the anchor who does this is completely excited about doing it.
We're rally thrilled with the show's progress and want to keep improving it.

And a final thought: STOP LOOKING AT YOUR COMPETITION: It's the circle of mediocrity. In print, don't dwell on the other paper...in TV, the innovation is more on YouTube the other local stations.

Posted by Lee at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

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