Presented by Incubation Lab: Boosting Local COVE Video Traffic Around Timely News and the Social Media ‘Destination’ Question

The Presented by Incubation Lab series shines the spotlight on timely news and the social media ‘Destination’ question. Michael Keefe-Feldman, Online Managing Editor for WMHT, weighs in:

As you’ve probably heard, New York recently became the sixth state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. Realizing that the events leading up to this would attract significant public interest, we decided to make a concerted effort to push traffic to our in-depth coverage of this issue from the State Capitol, specifically focusing on a video in our local COVE player from our flagship public affairs program, ‘New York NOW.’ The result was that, for the week of June 20-26, we tripled the level of traffic we typically see for this kind of a video in our player. Here’s a timeline of what we did:

Thursday, June 16

We laid the groundwork by posting an eight-minute video featuring highlights from the same-sex marriage bill debate on the New York Assembly floor to WMHT’s YouTube channel. This was content that we felt people would be interested in, but that we could present in abridged form only on the broadcast program. Immediately after posting to YouTube, we embedded this video on and promoted the embedded version of the video on both the ‘New York NOW’ Facebook page and WMHT’s main station Facebook page, while also distributing to others, including our ‘New York NOW’ media partners, the Times Union newspaper, for publication on their ‘Capitol Confidential’ blog. In the first 24 hours, the YouTube video received more than 2,500 views (as I write this, it has surpassed 3,800 views). The biggest traffic-driver for this video was the gay blog, which posted it on this same day under the header ‘Excellent Clip Reel of Yesterday’s NY Assembly Debate on Marriage Equality: Video.’

Friday, June 17

We updated our weekly ‘New York NOW’ online poll question, asking ‘Do you believe same-sex marriage will pass in the State Senate?’ ‘New York NOW’ aired that evening and we promoted the on-air program on the homepage and on both the ‘New York NOW’ and the main WMHT Facebook page.

Monday, June 20

We added the weekend’s edition of ‘New York NOW’ on the same-sex marriage debate to our station COVE player, then added it to the localized version of in the dynamic lead area and on topic pages via Merlin. We also promoted it on the homepage and on both the ‘New York NOW’ and WMHT Facebook pages. We then added a podcast of the program to iTunes and ‘New York NOW’s’ podcast RSS feed. During the day, we continued to update with new developments.

Wednesday, June 22

Continued to update with new info in the ongoing same-sex marriage debate and added to ‘New York NOW’s’ Flickr photostream.

Friday, June 24

To keep the ball rolling, I took a trip over to the Capitol to capture some photos and raw iPhone video of pro- and anti-same-sex marriage demonstrators, then posted the video to Facebook and YouTube and embedded it on I also posted several photos to the ‘New York NOW’ Facebook page. Late in the night, the State Senate passed the same-sex marriage bill. I posted this news to the ‘New York NOW’ Facebook page shortly after it happened.

It was gratifying to see that these efforts played a role in tripling online video traffic for this particular video in comparison to what we typically see for a ‘New York NOW’ full program. However, I’m not breaking out the champagne just yet, because the original YouTube video that we posted, which clearly went viral, received more views than the content on our own sites. From a public service standpoint, it doesn’t really matter where people view our content; we want to increase the breadth of its exposure to create a more-informed public and fulfill our mission, and in that spirit, a larger number of views on YouTube is just fine.

But, as I am constantly mindful of the need to build an economically-sustainable pathway for our growing online video service, I also look at more traffic to our content on YouTube than on our own sites as cause for concern. True, YouTube offers a revenue-sharing option for videos that surpass 1,000 views, but that’s an option we’ve repeatedly rejected for a number of reasons (a discussion of which is a blog entry for another day). Instead, it seems clear that as online video usage grows, in order to provide the kind of revenue that we’ll need to continue producing high-quality programs like this in the future, we’ll need to ‘train’ users to come to our own digital environments, where we can independently monetize their visits.

We’ve begun taking steps to leverage social media as more of a traffic director, as opposed to a final destination, by pointing users toward full programs in our COVE player through the use of a lower-third on our YouTube videos (though I should note that this step got lost in the shuffle in this case, which didn’t help our YouTube-to-local-site conversion rate). We’ve also added a similar banner atop our YouTube channel, and we’re trying to focus our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr efforts in this direction as well, though in practicing a decentralized approach to social media, the implementation of this strategy is still very much a work in progress and I don’t want to imply that we’ve ‘nailed it’ yet. I would love to hear what others are doing along these lines to embrace and utilize the power of social media while also avoiding the likely-unsustainable trap of training users that social media environments are *the* place to go for public media content.

The Presented by Incubation Lab Blog Series tackles the digital media topics that matter to stations, while highlighting and celebrating the online efforts of stations. These regular profiles of products, people and trends can provide you with inspiration and potential collaborators for your own projects.

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