The election season is here, and TV news channels are feeling the heat to leverage social media to gain an edge in coverage and help drive ratings. This past month, the Fox News Channel (FNC) saw a tremendous increase in linear ratings. The highlight of this increase was led by “America Live with Megyn Kelly.” The show’s ratings jumped up “30% during the 1pm hour and up 35% during the 2pm hour” for the 25-54 demographic compared to April 2011, according to Nielsen. Kelly, who has a big presence on social, will also be the lead anchor for FNC’s election coverage.
Fox News has already pushed social TV boundaries with their coverage of the debates. In January, Twitter was deeply involved in providing social TV analytics, and in December Fox News cleverly used #answer and #dodge to listen to viewers sentiments on how each question was answered. We spoke with Jay Wallace, Vice President of News and Senior Executive Producer of News and Politics at Fox News about the program’s use of social.
Lost Remote: How do you incorporate social media into the show?
Jay Wallace: Social media’s influence on, and incorporation into Megyn Kelly’s America Live is multi-directional – from playing a role in a story and segment ideas to finding guests and real-time news updates during breaking news to promoting stories the show thinks are important. Social media has become an essential platform to get news and information out instantly and to receive feedback just as quickly.
The amazing thing about this social media age is that it’s usage on Megyn’s show and in the newsroom has grown to a point where it is hard to imagine what life was without it – it has become second nature in news production.
LR: How do you think social has helped ratings?
Wallace: While there is currently no tangible metric to gauge how social media influences ratings, the contribution it makes to the production and dissemination of news is obvious when you look at how it has become an incubator of information in the early stages of major news events. Last year alone – whether it was Hurricane Irene, the death of Osama bin Laden or the unfolding scandal at Penn State – the buzz on Twitter and Facebook in the early stages of those events most likely brought more eyeballs to our screen for those interested in knowing more.
When used properly, social media does a great job at making reporters and anchors more accessible by showing some added personality that you wouldn’t necessarily find on TV or via an exchange over email. If someone is being exposed to FNC or Megyn on Twitter or Facebook for the first time and they like what they see, there’s a good chance that the next time they are flipping through the channels and they come across her – they’ll stop and give her a try. Another opportunity to get viewers in the tent.
LR: How does the show America Live use social media?
Wallace: Megyn and her team have become active tweeters to help promote the show – it’s become part of the checklist of things to do to help get the word out each day on what will be on America Live. In addition to appearing live for a tease in the show that is on before hers and getting word to our web team for FoxNews.com, tweeting teases out before and during the show has become an important tool in the toolkit to get viewers to tune in to the program. In addition to Megyn and the show team, a growing number of contributors and guests are also tweeting out their upcoming appearances and topics to their followers which is also helping spread the word to a wider audience.
LR: Anything else you’d like to add?
Wallace: As wonderful a tool that social media has become to newsrooms, as journalists, we still need to run all the traps and double and triple check things that are discovered via the various platforms that information comes in and goes out on. It’s our job to take the time to confirm and put some of this information into the broader context of the bigger story.