Top 9 Takeaways from NewsTECH Forum

What Engineers Want News Leaders to Know

Savvy broadcast executives and news content leaders who want to respond strategically to shifts in the way people consume news should spend more time with engineers! I attended the NewsTECH Forum this week in New York, where leaders in broadcast news technology tackled the challenges and opportunities of emerging tech. Here are nine actionable takeaways for news leaders.

Courtesy: DRs Kulturarvsprojekt
  1. Your Engineering department could be your best cost-saver
    Engineering is typically seen as primarily “an expense line,” noted Hank Hundemer, SVP Engineering at Tribune Broadcasting. The opposite is now more true, he argues. The combined effect of increased computing power and decreased cost of storage enabled by cloud computing has created opportunities for significant cost savings and workflow efficiencies for broadcasters. The engineering department, now more than ever, can be a partner and champion to content creators by using technology to solve workflow problems that lower operating costs, which enables more investment in creating original, unique, differentiated content.
  2. Your chief rival is now Netflix, not that other TV news station
    In 2018, for the first time, consumers watched more on demand than live linear TV, according to
    Andrew Finlayson, SVP Digital at Smith-Geiger. Finlayson says that trend will only increase now that we’ve reached that tipping point. What that means for broadcasters is that more and more consumers begin their “lean-back” viewing experience in an OTT environment (think Netflix, Hulu, ROKU or Apple TV) rather than starting their TV viewing experience in a live linear mode. Netflix is now the chief rival for evening news viewers. If you don’t have a plan to be present with local news in the OTT space, you’re at risk of being left behind.
  3. “There’s gold in your basement
    Nearly every broadcast newsroom in America has an archive of video going back for decades. Often, it’s in the basement or a back room, maybe on half-inch or three-quarter-inch or even film format; and there might be that ‘one guy’ or gal that everyone knows to go to when they are trying to find a clip from ten years ago. This ‘system’ means that most newsrooms are one employee-departure away from having no idea what’s in their archive, or how to access it. Cloud computing and AI have now matured to the point where it is possible to unlock this “gold in the basement,” a local station’s owned video archive. Google, Amazon and others now have the technology to ingest video, semantically analyze and tag the subject matter, and render it searchable and accessible. The digitization of station video archives opens up two huge opportunities, one around licensing and monetizing their archives; and the other around creating new content opportunities, like anniversary and historical specials.
  4. Artificial Intelligence is ready for broadcast
    Artificial Intelligence is an area where technology can help broadcasters. AI assistance can be applied to lower costs and also to power new innovation. “The low-hanging fruit is Closed Captioning,” says Michael Englehaupt, VP and CTO for Graham Media. Englehaupt notes that CC users are vocal, and today’s captioning solutions are often imperfect or costly, or both.
    “It’s something a station is in peril of being fined for by the FCC if there’s a point of failure. AI is an opportunity to rethink the way we do captioning.” Captioning is just a starting point for an entire category of tasks that could potentially be done at both higher quality and lower cost via AI assist.
  5. Technology will reinvent the Assignment Desk
    The traditional TV Assignment Desk is an outdated structure. But TV newsrooms still need to keep track of stories and crews and locations. How do you juggle words and images and video for multiple stories daily, to be used across multiple platforms. That is a workflow problem ripe for a technology solution that leverages the speed and storage power of cloud computing. There isn’t a winner yet. But early entries worth reviewing include “Playbook”, an end to end story workflow management system previewed by AP at NewsTECH Forum; and Mojo X, a start-up that interviewed dozens of newsrooms about workflow pain points and needs, and designed an multiplatform, cloud-based story management platform to ‘digitize’ the legacy assignment process.
  6. Metadata is your new best friend (so is the Cloud)
    “Where was that video shot?” How often does someone in a newsroom ask about location information for video and photography? Location data embedded in digital media – “metadata” – can now not only solve that problem but also create a new storytelling opportunity. In short: Metadata is your new best friend. Digitally encoded location information can be used by newsrooms to verify content; to track and communicate story location information; and, to enable fast and powerful searches after the fact for related content. Hank Hundemer of Tribune cites the famous Colorado “balloon boy” example, where that term wasn’t even coined until several days after the story. Content leaders should collaborate now with their technology teams to insure their newsrooms are capturing this “metadata” seamlessly and frictionlessly, in order to to take advantage of this potential.
  7. Security is not your problem – until it is!
    News content folks often brag about their techo-illiteracy, to the chagrin of their IT departments. How many times has your IT team warned about clicking attachments on emails or “phishing” threats? In this increasingly complex digital environment, data and account security can no longer be just the concern of IT. Executives and newsroom leaders must champion security practices, because they have so much to lose. “All the security in the world fails when someone shows up with a USB jump drive,” notes ABC O&O’s Tish Graham.
  8. A little investment in innovation can go a long way
     “Sprinkle a little bit of technology around,” says Tribune’s Hundemer. “Tell them ‘go break this’ and then see what happens.” He notes that he’s supplied a few passionate employees with drones or VR cameras and the results have been amazing. “The cost is actually quite low, to seed innovation.”
  9. Today’s Edges are Tomorrow’s Mainstream
    “Go to the edges, because the edges will wind up in the middle,” advises Tish Graham, VP Broadcast Technology for the ABC Owned TV Station Group. Graham notes that at NAB, the largest annual gathering of members of the National Association of Broadcasters, “Microsoft used to be at a booth on the edges.” She says she consistently finds tomorrow’s innovation leaders by looking at who’s “on the edges” today. The next time you go to a conference, consider straying from the beaten path of crowded booths to see who’s “on the edges.”

Related:

Article: To Win At OTT, Think Programming. Read here.

Article: Stations Need To Forge Ahead With OTT. Read here.