News Web Site Economics 101

By Graeme Newell Comment

-The broadcast strategy of providing a broad view of the day’s news is not very effective for web news.
-Web sites built with traditional news content attract minimal advertiser interest.
-The station video library has strong potential to generate revenue.


Ask web developers to look at television station web sites and that is usually the first word out of their mouths. Banner ads zip and strobe around the screen. Long rows of tiny head shots span across the top of the page, with everyone but the custodian flashing their pearly whites. Glance over to the left side of the home page and you will often find more than 30 links with everything from lawyer referrals, to job listings, to breaking news. It is overwhelming. Click on any of these links and you’ll often find dated content and very little video, considering it is a TV site. The content is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Plain and simple, most stations just don’t have the resources to populate their sites with meaty content. Most TV station web sites are badly undermanned. One of the busiest people in the station is the webmaster. She has a constant battle just to keep the information current, let alone compelling. If we examine web site traffic numbers we can convince ourselves the numbers are good. We can site exponential growth but when you compare the numbers to other comparable sites, the totals are embarrassingly low. We know we need to be in the web game, but the majority of TV stations are playing not to lose. We’re not putting much money into them because we’re not getting much money out of them.

The problem is our mindset. We’re trying to recreate broadcasting on the web. We do the web just like we do TV – broad. There is just a little bit of everything and not enough of anything. Because of its very nature, TV news has evolved to become a headline service. Our web sites mirror our on-air broadcast. You usually leave our web sites still hungry, wishing for a little more meat on the bone.

The big problem is that the advertisers just aren’t buying our sites. If your web site is a headline service that mirrors your on-air broadcast, you are your own worst enemy when it comes to revenue generation. If both mediums contain the same type of content, they will generally attract similar audiences. The cost per thousand of TV is exponentially better than the same rate online. If that’s the case, why would an advertiser pay much more for an ad on the TV weather page when a commercial in the TV weather forecast will delivery many more people at a lower price?

The Xs and Os content of local TV news is a losing game on the web. Sites that feature insubstantial amounts of general news are attractive to no one. Basic local news, weather and sports sites have a hard time recruiting new advertisers. Most TV web site buys simply move dollars from the TV broadcast buy to the TV web buy. Little new revenue is created. If your site is squarely focused on selling to middle America demos of TV news, you’ll have some powerful competition from traditional media.

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Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at