Author Archives: Colleen Gaffney

Crisis TV: Analyzing The Latest Trends In News Reporting

In the aftermath of the week-long media coverage of the Boston marathon bombings, many questions have arisen about the role of media in breaking news stories, and how things are different from just a few years ago.

I was one of those people who followed the story closely from the bombings on Monday until Suspect #2 was captured Friday night. I watched the story on TV, followed blogs and live updates online, and scoured the internet for any news I could find. Along the way, I received a lot of misinformation (some of which I passed on to other people). Yet, in the end, I was happy to be informed about each development. It was difficult to take my eyes off the screen as I watched the story unfold live on Friday night when the younger brother was captured. Looking back on the week and how it was covered in the media, there are definitely some issues to consider and some takeaways for the future:

Are Cable and Network TV news still relevant?

Are people still getting their news from traditional sources or are they turning to social media? It seems that, despite the role of social and digital media in news

gathering and sharing, people are still turning to TV. The cable news networks saw huge numbers last week when they aired near-constant coverage of the bombings and the aftermath. According the Medialife, 10 of the top 20 shows on cable last week aired on Friday on CNN and Fox News, all of which had to do with Boston bombing coverage.

Furthermore, 46 million viewers tuned into broadcast and cable on Friday night to see the capture. Despite the speed at which digital media operates, there is still an appeal to TV. On Friday night, viewers could watch the capture of the suspect live on TV and actually see the story unfold. This is something that probably won’t change anytime in the near future, despite the increase in digital news sources.

News Errors and the Validity of Reporting

All week long there were reports that ended up not being true. Even major news networks were making mistakes by reporting too quickly: CNN reported that the bomber had been arrested when they hadn’t even been identified yet. When news is reported the next day (like in the newspaper), there’s time to check facts, check sources, and give a full, researched, account. When reports are instantaneous, there is no time to analyze and check the data.

Consumers expect their media quickly. We want to know what is happening when it is happening. But, we must accept that there may be errors when we rely on live new coverage.

The new phenomenon of “crowd sourcing”

Reddit fueled this topic during the hunt for the bombers. Anyone with access to the internet had the capability of scouring photos, looking for people they deemed suspicious. This led to a lot of false accusations and misidentified suspects. The biggest false lead came when a missing Brown student was identified as the Bomber. The family even took down a Facebook page that had been set up to help find him because people starting posting terrible things about the student. Reddit eventually had to issue an apology for the “witch hunt” that ensued, following the bombings.

Police Communication to the Public through Social Media Outlets

On other hand, there were many good things that came out of today’s media as well. For starters, Boston police and FBI were able to communicate with the public through Twitter. When there were false reports of an arrest, the FBI was able to tweet that this information was false. Additionally, the FBI was able to use the media to help aid in identifying the suspects. They put their pictures out to the media, asking for the public’s help in identifying them. Police also used photos and videos from people in the crowd to help search for the bombers. Today’s social media and news sharing allows for more communication between authorities, media, and the public.

The way big news events like this are covered will continue to evolve, but hopefully some of the lessons of last week will be remembered next time.


Social Media Strikes Again!

Talk of Whitney Houston’s death has been everywhere, and hard to avoid, since it was first announced last Saturday night. It began with Twitter, and grew from there, with nearly every form of media impacted.

Twitter helped spread the news of Whitney’s death with 2.5 million tweets in the first hour. Also online, the topic dominated Google searches. In addition, Whitney Houston’s Facebook page was overwhelmed with comments.

The day after her death, the Grammy’s were scheduled to air. With the recent news, tributes were quickly added to the program, and it paid off. Ratings for the show were boosted, and the show averaged 39.9 million total viewers, the most since 1984 when Michael Jackson performed “Thriller.”

Houston’s impact on media continued into the next day when TV news magazines also experienced ratings boosts. On the Monday after the Grammy’s, every news magazine ratings rose.

Twitter came in to play again later, when the NJ Governor, Chris Christie, used Twitter to defend his choice to lower flags to half-mast in honor of the NJ native.

On the retail side, Whitney’s album sales soared in the wake of her death. More than 100,000 albums and 900,000 individual tracks sold in about 24 hours of her death. Her digital album sales jumped 17,000%  for her greatest hits album. Her song “I will Always Love You” was played 2,137 times on Sat and Sunday on broadcast radio stations across the country.

Many of the music channels on cable also played Whitney Houston videos over the weekend.

And now, despite the ceremony being closed to the public, fans will be able to access the event online. The AP has been granted permission to stream the ceremony live.

Whitney Houston may not have been in the public eye much lately, but her death certainly catapulted back to the forefront.

Fall TV Preview

We’re into week 2 of the fall TV premiers, and we’re starting to see which new shows will stick and which may not. There haven’t been a ton of surprises so far this fall, with returning shows doing about as expected. There are a few interesting notes from the season so far, as all the networks vie for the top spot among viewers.

The first surprise of the season comes from the much-hyped new realty show, “X Factor.” While still helping to boost FOX overall, the show failed to deliver the Idol-level ratings that were anticipated. For its premier, the show got a 4.2 rating in Adults 18-49, which was well behind the number one show for the night, “Modern Family” with a 5.9 and much lower than Idol numbers.

Another interesting note is that comedies have really dominated the programming. For four straight nights last week, comedies had the top rated show of the night.  A couple of new comedies really contributed to the comedic successes. “2 Broke Girls” had the highest rated fall debut in over 2 years, with a 7.0. It was behind the highly anticipated “Two and a Half Men” premier, but it still stayed strong in its second week with a 4.9. The other new comedy success lies with “New Girl.” This has given FOX a real lift in its fall schedules as its top fall comedy since 2011. The series premier came in at 4.7 and its second week retained most of those viewers, getting a 4.4. It is also the first new show to get picked up for a full season. It’s anticipated that “2 Broke Girls” will be another one to get picked up.

As with any premier season, there are plenty of shows that are already looking bleak. Two that were off to bad starts are “Playboy Club” and “Free Agents” which have both seen very low ratings.

The networks are holding pretty strong to their usual prime rankings. Most notably, NBC was fourth overall in the first week of premiers. The Sing-Off had series-low ratings in its second week, Whitney is struggling, and one of the network’s stronger programs, “The Office”, lost its main character this season. CBS is still very stronger, but lost the number one slot to FOX for the first week. The reliable CBS comedies like “Big Bang” and “Two and a half Men” are still going strong, and they’ve seen success with some of their new programs. FOX has really seen the biggest boost of all the networks, jumping to number one, and having its highest premier week in 11 years.

The Growing Hispanic Market

This week Hispanic television network Univision announced plans to add three cable networks over the next few years. They’re adding a news network, sports network, and an all telenovela network. They’ve also announced plans to create their own “Groupon” program.

This falls right in line with the new evidence showing that the Hispanic media market is growing. Between the improved ratings on the Hispanic TV stations and the recent data from the 2010 census, it has become clear that the Hispanic market cannot be ignored.  First, the 2010 census shows that the Hispanic population has grown to 1 out of every 6 Americans. Conversely, only 4 percent of overall media spend is targeted to Hispanics. With the growth of the Hispanic population in the country, we’re seeing growth in the Hispanic media as well.

In the week of April 4th, Spanish network Telemundo’s “Le Reina del Sur” beat both ABC and NBC for adults 18-34. In February, Univision passed NBC in the national rankings, regardless of language. And furthermore, while all the English networks have declined in audience numbers since a year ago, Univision’s audience has increased by 6%.

And these kinds of things have been happening more and more. It’s no longer uncommon to see Univision ranking above an English network on overnight ratings. Nor is it uncommon to see a Hispanic station ranking near the top of a general market radio ranker.

All of this data points to the fact that the Hispanic market is growing, and advertisers really can’t ignore this audience.

Rebounding from the Recession

The recession hit all aspects of American life, including advertising. Yet, while it’s unclear right now whether the rest of the country is coming out of the recession, the advertising world is making some definitive gains. Halfway into the year, it is becoming clear that ad spending is increasing.

Media analysts began the year predicting continual downturns in media spending from 2009; but, early into March and April, predictions were quickly changed to suggest growth. These new predictions are continually proving true as the year goes on. For TV, 2010 is already showing improvement.

First quarter results are in and TV advertising was up, with network revenues up 11% and local stations up 20%. Automotive and Political Advertising led the increased spending categories.

Further evidence of ad growth comes from the network upfronts. As of today, broadcast networks have already concluded their upfronts in just three weeks. All networks sold between 75 and 80 percent of inventory, and CPMs are up between 7 and 10 percent for all networks. Both the percentage of inventory sold, and the speed in which it was done, is close to the levels seen prior to the recession.

As media buyers, these improvements mean we have to adapt, too. We no longer have the upper hand that we did a year ago. And most importantly, we need to stay aware of all these changes in the landscape, so that we are prepared.

Still, if the advertising world is any indication, we can all be hopeful that we may be out of this recession soon.