Producing for the Distracted Viewer

By Doug Drew 


  • Start with your best video, soundbite or most interesting piece of information.
  • When doing interviews, start with the key question.

Viewers are not paying nearly the attention we think they are. They are usually doing something else while watching the news and that means we have to work extremely hard to capture their attention. And that magic moment has to happen within the first 20 seconds, maybe even 10 seconds!

Compelling video and sound
If you have great video, don’t back into it. Get right to it. Often reporters will go into the field and get some great sound or pictures, and then try and save it for their story. But if it’s that good, you want viewers to see it right off the top of the show.

Start the show and the story with the great material. It’s okay to repeat it. Used in the lead-in, it’s just a set up for the story; it’s the magic moment that grabs the viewers. It’s then up to the reporter to put it all into context.

The same theory applies with interviews. Get right to it. Don’t start off with a long-winded set-up. Just get right to the most important information. The Today Show recently interviewed Florida Representative Kendrick Meeks to find out if former President Clinton had talked to Meeks about dropping out of the election. The first question from Meredith Viera to Meeks: “Did Bill Clinton ever ask you explicitly or implicitly to drop out of the race for Senator?” No dilly dallying there. Viera started with the key question and the interview was off and running.

If you have a guest coming on to talk about the cancer-walk, talk first about cancer and get the person’s story, then mention the event at the end.

Live shots
If you are a reporter live at a boat show, don’t start talking about how many boats there are, instead, show me the coolest boat.

Hollywood movie trailers
Movie trailers are like this. They just get right to the most compelling content. Check out the trailer for the new movie about a morning newscast called Morning Glory. The whole trailer is full of magic moments and very little background information about the movie. The Hollywood trailer writers and producers just get right to the best lines, moments and video. Do you not want to see the movie because you have seen some of the key content? In fact, just the opposite. It’s the juicy content that wets your appetite for more!

Bottom Line
So whether you are a producer putting a newscast together, a reporter writing a package, a writer scripting a vo, or a segment producer putting together a guest segment, make sure you have a magic moment right off the top. If you don’t grab viewers within the first 20 seconds, you are going to lose them.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at Follow Doug on facebook and on twitter at