One of the Las Vegas Sun’s goals is to build new-media content that focuses on people’s passions — thereby creating big traffic, thereby creating the perfect environment for Chris Jennewein’s team to build a successful business that supports the journalism.
BTW — Chris is still hiring if you’d like to join our team on the advertising side.
Anyway, as we analyze traffic trends on lasvegassun.com, it hasn’t taken us long to figure out that local sports content — specifically things related to UNLV basketball and (somewhat surprisingly) Rebels football, Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed-martial arts, boxing, World Series of Poker and sports gambling — gets big numbers.
Which is fine by us. The members of our new-media team know a thing or two about building sports content, so this plays to our strengths.
And then when you layer in that we love to produce lots of sports-related multimedia, and already were doing that in droves for the Sun’s site, it wasn’t a huge stretch that we could compile that content and produce a weekly sports show.
We’ve dabbled a little in producing television shows before, and more importantly than knowing what to do, we also knew a fair amount of what not to do. (And I promise to mention those things a little later in this post.)
The real reason for today’s blog post is to talk about the Las Vegas Sun’s new sports show, “All In.”
Here’s a screenshot from the opening of the show. That’s our team’s longtime sports anchor, Alex Adeyanju, in the middle. If you click on the screenshot, it’ll jump over to the opening of the show if you’d like to see the context of this shot.
What’s really cool is that our reasons for doing “All In” aren’t a whole lot different than what I was talking about earlier. Whenever we post content on lasvegassun.com about UNLV or UFC or about sports gambling, the traffic goes nuts.
And though traffic to our video on lasvegassun.com has been hit and miss to say the least, that certainly hasn’t been the case with many of our sports videos.
Coming up with the tone and look of the show has been an interesting challenge for our team that we still don’t have completely figured out.
What is kind of cool about the show’s look is that it is the first thing we’ve filmed in our team’s new “conference” room. First, let me give you a little background on our new conference room.
Whenever a local or regional issue begins to become pretty big, the Las Vegas Sun does something in print called Sunday Conversations. It’s where the Sun will bring in four or five experts to talk about the local economy or the likelihood of a new arena in Las Vegas or getting four former Nevada governors in a room together and basically ask them how they would fix the mess that is known as Nevada’s state budget.
Our online team loves these “roundtables,” as they are informally referred to at the Sun. So, every time one of these group discussions happens, we go into the Sun’s conference room and set up lights and cameras for two or three hours. And when the discussion is over, we spend about the same amount of time tearing it all down.
As the Greenspun Media Group was designing and building its new offices — which the Greenspun Interactive team was going to move in to — we asked if our area’s main conference room could be designed a little differently. We wanted it sound-proofed and to have a high and open ceiling. We also wanted a full-on television lighting grid installed, as well as light-proof curtains that could completely encompass the room.
And that’s all on top of the regular conference-room amenities: projector and screen, flat-screen television, speakers, Internet connection, etc…
It is a conference room and studio. And what’s really cool is that it is used as both things almost daily.
Here is what it looks like as a conference room:
And here is what it looks like as a studio:
And that’s where “All In” is shot each week.
(It’s also where we shoot a new local music show we’re working on called “The Cooler” if you’d like to see the room without a poker table in it.)
The “All In” show is planned each week by our team’s lead sports video producer/anchor, Alex Adeyanju, along with a lot of help from our team’s other sports producer, Christine Killimayer. And when I say “a lot,” what I really mean is a whole sh*t ton.
Our new sports show is basically shot and edited as time permits over three days — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Because, unlike “Studio 55” — our team’s first big foray into video, which was on TV via a local-access channel on cable — “All In” runs on a real local, over-the-air television station, meaning it has to have closed captioning. That means at about 9 or so on Thursday morning, a member of our staff runs a copy of the show over to one of our sister companies, who then adds all of the closed captioning (that’s after we’ve had an intern compile the scripts and transcribe the show).
Each new episode of “All In” gets uploaded to our site on Thursdays and runs on VegasTV (KTUD, Cox cable Channel 14) that day at 5:30 p.m. It seems like every city has a station that is a little like VegasTV — you know, the unaffiliated station that runs “King of the Hill,” “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “Oprah Winfrey” as well as assloads of re-runs of “Frasier” and “That ’70s Show.”
Why go with an unaffiliated station?
Between 6 and 8 p.m., VegasTV has the No. 1 or No. 2 programs across the exact demographics that we’re trying to reach. With “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “King of the Hill,” VegasTV is No. 1 or No. 2 in the 18-34/18-49/25-49 demographics every night — the exact demographic we were aiming for with “All In.”
And overall, VegasTV is the No. 1 channel in Las Vegas with 18-34 males. That’s why. Well, and our company owns a significant part of the station.
Here’s a crappy photo taken on my mobile phone of the Cox Communications on-screen cable guide that shows “All In” in the menu. Pretty cool!
One of the things that makes the show interesting for us is that it functions a lot like our website does.
It has lots of participation from our sports writers — some from the Sun’s traditional newsroom, some from the Home News (our company’s weekly newspapers) and some from our online-only writers.
What’s been really cool is how excited they’ve all been to participate in the show.
Here are links to specific segments tied to our different journalists:
We even partnered with a local sports talk station — ESPN Radio 1100 — to do a weekly segment for “All In” that focuses on fantasy football.
On the technical end, we’re getting lots of help from Trent Ogle (our team’s chief videographer), Ryan McAfee (utility infielder extreme) and shooter extraordinaire Voja Radosvljevic.
And I have to mention Josh Williams, who is involved at damn-near critical levels in just about everything that happens with our new-media team at the Las Vegas Sun, including helping in every way possible with this show.
Earlier in this post, I mentioned that we definitely learned lots from “Studio 55” that we’re now applying to “All In” or will be applying shortly.
What are those things?
* For something like this, I can’t emphasize how important marketing/promotion is. We haven’t begun our big marketing campaign for this show yet, but we now know what we need to do based in large part on what we didn’t do in Naples.
And if you’re marketing campaign just includes ads in your own newspaper for two or three days, you’re screwed. That ain’t nearly gonna cut it.
But, just in case you’re wondering how we promote “All In” in the print edition of the Las Vegas Sun, here is a screenshot of the online news key that ran this week (it clicks through to a PDF):
* I know this sounds like product development 101, but know who your audience is and try to actually produce something they would want.
* For video like this, being on TV is essential, at least right now. But you also have to understand that if you’re going to be on a local cable public access channel that your audience is going to be about four, maybe five people. Maybe.
In Naples, “Studio 55” was essentially the nicest house in the crappiest neighborhood. Public access cable means your lead-in program will probably be an infomercial cooking show, and your show will likely be followed by an infomercial fishing show.
* Yes, you need to be able to download or watch the entire show on your site. But — and it seems so dang obvious to us now — you also have to be able to watch or download specific segments.
* Manage everyone in your organization’s expectations about what your online traffic will be. It ain’t going to be huge. At least not at first. That’s part of the reason why being on television is mandatory, in my mind. The biggest local audience for your videos — at least right now — probably isn’t going to be online, unless you have something hit virally.
And we know something about this because our team recently had a video here in Las Vegas go viral and get more than 700,000 views. But we’ve also had online videos get watched by eight people.
* The show/product/whatever-the-heck-you-call-it has to evolve and improve all of the time. You need to re-evaluate and be critical all of the time. Don’t just keep doing things the same way because that’s how you’ve always done them.
I’ve heard about organizations continuing to do things the same way they always have despite everything around them changing, and my gut tells me that story isn’t going to end very well.
On “All In,” the changes we’ve gone through with the program through just the first four episodes have been mind-blowing, and I know of several other big changes planned for next week’s episode.
* Make sure your sales team can actually sell what you’re producing and understands it.
I know there is supposed to be this wall between editorial and advertising, but I don’t think it needs to be a literal wall. So, even when you keep the virtual wall between editorial and advertising, there has to at least be honest-to-God dialogue and respect between both so there isn’t some unproductive gap in the common understanding.
People have to be on the same page.
Here at Greenspun Interactive, Chris Jennewein’s business folks not only sit in the same room as our new-media developers and journalists, we all actually hang out together and like each other.
* Know what your goals are for the program.
We have three or four goals with “All In” —
+ to build great expertise for when HD over IP, VOD, Apple TV, etc…, finally begin to catch on. When they do, we won’t just be ready, we’ll be ready and able to kick a little ass.
+ marketing, marketing, marketing for our website and newspaper. But mostly for our website and other new-media products aimed at the audience we’re going after.
+ content being used in multiple places/outlets — web, TV, etc…
+ marketing, marketing, marketing for our newspaper and website. I didn’t repeat that on accident. It’s that important to us. Though “All In” is jam-packed with tons of info, is fun and entertaining — it also is basically a 30-minute infomercial on how great our newspapers and websites are.
So, do I think every newspaper in the country should begin doing things like this?
There are so many variables, I’m not even sure where to start. But let’s start with the obvious ones:
* Who is your audience and is there a need in your community that could be filled that plays to your organization’s strengths?
* Is broadband video a key strategy for your company?
* Is Brian Greenspun or Don Graham or Dolph Simons your company’s leader? As Dolph Simons used to say almost daily at the Lawrence Journal-World, “Are we driving with our brights on?”
Another way of saying this, is your strategy for the next fiscal quarter or for the next quarter-century?
Things like “All In” aren’t strategies that are likely going to pay off over the next three months. If you’re doing this as a big payoff for the next fiscal quarter, I would tell you stay as far away from doing something like this as possible.
I’ll be the first to admit that what we’re doing might not work — just like it’s completely obvious to most folks that the current system/economics for print newspapers no longer works.
Whether “All In” ends up working — from both a financial perspective and a brand-marketing perspective — I can guarantee that it won’t be the last chance we take at Greenspun Interactive. And if it does fail, I can guarantee it won’t be our last failure.
But something like this that is produced by our company will hit — and hit big — and when it does, other newspapers around the country are either going to end up copying it or wondering why they hadn’t thought of it, because the bottom line is that what we’re doing here in Las Vegas no longer qualifies as being a traditional newspaper in any sense.
We’re not the local newspaper. We’re the local news organization that’s building for the future. We want to be where the people are and where the people are going to be in the future, not where they used to be.
It takes moxie and vision on the part of your organization’s leadership — from the publisher to the editor to the ad director — for something like this to even have a chance to work.
And all of the pieces were in place to do this in Las Vegas.
So, we went All In.