C-J on TV

It’s not often that the Courier-Journal advertises its product on television, so I took notice when the new spot started airing this week.

And it’s pretty good. If you haven’t seen it — it shows a bunch of different individuals dancing with graphics behind them touting different parts of the paper’s offering, primarily touting the new Neighborhoods Section. The spot is peppy and full of energy.

It’s the sort of aggressive marketing the paper needs and that it should be doing. In fact, the C-J seems to have emerged from its celebrated transition to a more “connected” organization in pretty good shape. As someone tied to a desk all day, I appreciate the paper’s e-mail alerts and its quick response to breaking news.

The Neighborhoods section, spotlighted in the TV ad, has brought me news that I wasn’t getting before — like today’s piece on the re-emergence of Impellizeri’s Pizza on Bardstown Road – and last week’s story about the changes in the building that housed the old Highlands Bicycle Shop. I admit I’m not much interested in the reader-supplied photos and stories, but they seem to have their place.

As much as I’ve criticized the Courier here, I think the paper is improving. It’s good to see.

Staying The Course at WHAS

For those of you tuned in to the Ken Schulz Show . . .er, I mean the WHAS-TV newscast. . . on Tuesday, not only did you miss an episode of Jeopardy, but an ABC News story about the effect of the troop surge in Baghdad. There was also an interesting piece of news on a MySpace executive’s speech in Kentucky, and of course new rumors on the UK coaching search. And yes, there was a new, exclusive-to-WHAS poll on the Governor’s Race that never got a moment on the weather…newscast.

WHAS-TV seems so determined to be the weather leader that it’s losing sight of its audience. Consultants have advised the station to win in weather at all costs, and to chase fires, so they’re “staying the course” as ratings fall. The station sent two reporters for live shots at a condo fire this week in which there were no fatalities.

President Bush, in the face of mounting criticism of his Iraq policy and evidence that it’s not working, vows to “stay the course” when the American public tells him to change direction. Likewise, lame-duck WHAS-TV management continues to devote its prime time viewing hours to “weather” while its ratings continue to slide and viewers opt for competitors.

On Tuesday, the area experienced a pretty typical spring storm. There were some moderate warnings, and it rained really hard. The station sent Mark Hebert out in the street outside the studio, where he confirmed on-air that it was, indeed, raining. Some folks lost power, and we were reminded over and over again that 5,000 LG&E customers were without it. Schulz, the meteorologist, waxed on and on in front of his weather map. For about two hours.

Enough already. The station sent a video crew around town, and showed several fallen trees and signs. It had people calling in reports of the rain, and put them on air, and later even encouraged viewers to send in photos. Seemed to me the on-air personnel were struggling to keep from laughing out loud about actually reporting, in a newscast, how hard it’s raining.

As usual, the other stations afforded the storm a reasonable level of coverage, but managed to squeeze in actual news.

It makes you wonder if WHAS managers are paying any attention at all. Like our President, the station continues to “stay the course” while viewers turn away in droves.

Less Means More for Pledge Drive

It was close to midnight last Saturday, and Jeanine insisted that I turn on the radio – it’s always set to WFPK. We’d been talking about the pledge drive, because I was interested to see if the Public Radio Partnership strategy would work. I’d been listening all week, and it seemed to me that while I was hearing more conversation from James Bickers in the morning, it wasn’t as pervasive as it had been in previous drives. I had not been tempted to turn on commercial radio, as had been the case in drives past.

The strategy was to cut back on the length of the drive, and hope that by some inverse logic, pledgers would be motivated to donate more money in a shorter amount of time. PRP president Donovan Reynolds took a risk — if the drive didn’t measure up, he’d be pressured to do it the old way next time.

So Jeanine had me listening to the radio Saturday because the tone of the drive had motivated her to give — I soon heard our name announced on the air. It apparently affected some other folks that way. Here’s the note the Reynolds sent to the PRP board the day after the drive ended:

PRP has just completed the most successful membership campaign in its history. We raised $295,476 last week — $95,000 over goal, and a 72% increase over last year’s spring drive.

And remember, this was a drive that was 22% shorter than our usual campaign. Our total for the entire spring campaign is now $397,599 and the money is still coming in.

I think we can safely conclude that the idea of a shorter drive has found public favor. Our other incentives, I believe, were also factors in our success. The “best of” station CDs were very popular, and the European vacation grand prize also produced quite a bit of excitement.

I am immensely proud of the PRP staff who worked so hard and sounded so upbeat during this drive. There’s a positive energy in this place now and it manifested itself on the air.

Nearly 1700 of our members took the time to fill out our on-line survey. We’ll be getting some very good feedback.

I believe this drive was a turning point for PRP. We’re ready to roll!

Those who pledged were asked to fill out a survey with questions about how to use technology to improve the radio stations. Congrats to Reynolds for taking a risk and pushing for the change.