Our annual attendance of TechCon affords us countless networking opportunities. Sure, meeting the finest staff and administrators from the world of public broadcasting is one of our main objectives. But having the chance to join attendees in the breakaway sessions is priceless. Often, we gather major takeaways that will apply to other stations and networks. “We Tried It and You Can Too! How PBS NewsHour Innovates on Digital Platforms” was no different.
As the frontline of public broadcasting’s digital presence, PBS NewsHour recognized record growth during 2015. At PBS TechCon, Digital Design and Development Director Vanessa Dennis and Director of Audience Engagement and Communications Nick Massella discussed the key learnings that helped elevate NewsHour’s place in the national media.
Rather than focusing on unique ways to capture news, the team dedicated resources to tools aimed at improving organizational collaboration. One tool, Slack, helped make quick, casual communication between team members easy and alleviated important information from getting lost in email inboxes. Much like the social channels used in daily friend communication, Slack built a level of inclusiveness among the team. Because of the ongoing conversations, it offered a good option for brainstorming. More detailed topics and threads were split off into groups and often eliminated the need for meetings.
Massella and Dennis also discussed the importance of video and key points to maximizing its effectiveness. Because you only have the time it takes a viewer to scroll down their smartphone to catch their attention, the duo encouraged captioned video (they use rev.com for their CC) and hammered home the importance of an eye-catching video placeholder. Another focal topic was Facebook Live and how it matches up with Periscope. Because of Facebook’s various algorithms, the NewsHour team elects to use Live as much as possible. For video content they are unable to stream, NewsHour natively uploads content rather than using YouTube links (this, too, helps best the algorithms).
The team’s final point focused on the importance of good, accurate analytics. Much of social posting is trial and error, and many things that have worked once do not so again. Carefully tracking periodic analytics helped NewsHour determine a shifting posting schedule. Built to maximize engagement, the roadmap directs (and schedules) certain types of posts at particular personas. By integrating fresh content and original ideas with NewsHour content, the team has bolstered its social following and national relevance.
From a PBS TechCon presentation by Vanessa Dennis, Director, Digital Design and Development, and Nick Massella, Director of Audience Engagement and Communications, PBS NewsHour.