Think Digital Now, Not Digital First

Checking the weather right now

More TV newsrooms are internally pushing a “digital first” strategy. As the name implies, reporters and producers are encouraged to immediately publish new information online instead of holding it for the next newscast.

This isn’t a new term. Steve Buttry, the late Director of Student Media at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, wrote about digital first journalism in his blog back in 2011.

A digital first strategy might work for news. I suggest local TV stations have a different attitude when it comes to online weather content. Broadcast meteorologists need to think Digital Now.

Online weather content must always be valid.

From the website user’s point of view, “now” is whenever they click online. They should always find stories and webcasts that represent the current weather situation, along with the updated forecast.

This might seem obvious. However, a random sampling of local TV station websites reveals a surprising number simply upload the weather update from the last newscast. Top stories often focus on severe weather warnings that expired hours ago. That isn’t Digital Now. That’s digital last night or earlier today.

Digital Now requires careful planning and organization. Rather than focusing on the past, webcasts must be produced to advance the forecast. Featured graphics must define the immediate threat. Accompanying text should be updated as quickly as conditions change. And the weather will change.

Build a following by building trust.

I tell broadcast meteorologists that trust is built one storm at a time. When it comes to online weather coverage, trust is built one click at a time. If someone finds outdated information when they check the website or app, what are the chances they’ll return?

The future for local TV stations relies on establishing a strong digital presence and secondary revenue stream. To be successful, we must produce content that is compelling, relevant and serves the user on digital now.