Wednesday, January 19, 2005

By The Numbers

The February ratings period is almost here... a time when news managers across the country and here in MARKET 117 are focused on the numbers. Thought I’d share a story… after I was at WMBD for a while, the GM decided to hire more reporters and photographers. I like to think of this as the last golden age of WMBD/Midwest Television (but generally when catching up with friends who’ve moved on I’ll refer to it as “back in the day.”) Bill Lamb was very open about how he wanted to be number one. This included a great new set, a new show - The Morning Mix and lots of different promos including one Jeff writes about on his blog (for the record, I think I was the only on air staffer not in that promo... just didn't fit in with my schedule, darn!). The attitude Bill pushed was “first we’ll be best, then we’ll be first” and he was willing to spend the money… arming the newsroom with more than enough bodies to be the best.

Maybe my friends at WEEK will dispute it, but for a while WMBD was the show in town. And why wouldn’t it be. I’m not saying this just because I was there at the time… it was just a difference in sheer manpower. We had four or five reporters dayside and depending on the day, two or three reporters nightside. That was crazy for a market this size. Eventually this expanded to include a nightside Twin Cities newsroom presence. We seemed to get to so much more than the other two stations, with a reporter presence to boot. It meant getting to enterprise a lot of the features I loved to do and there were nights, that the producer might not have a long form story for one of us.

But there was little change in the ratings. WEEK continued to dominate, although over lunch one day, even one of their staffers acknowledged how well he thought we were doing. Didn’t matter. Eventually, when staffing numbers didn’t translate into improved Nielsen numbers and the station was sold to another company, it all came to an end. WMBD is still a solid station, but the staffing today is probably more in line with what this market will support.


Billy Dennis said...

But are local news station ratings dependent on the quality of the network and syndicated programing the precedes it? In the afternoons, WEEK benefits from Oprah. In the evenings, WEEK benefits from high-rated dramas like ER, Law and Order, etc.

Edgar said...

Absolutely, stations depend on lead ins/network programming. But I'd be willing to bet in certain markets with a strong number one, it doesn't make much of a difference, unless over an extended period of time a station's programming is in the toilet.

jokinjer1 said...

Well, WEEK is in the toilet now. Their weather product has to be among the poorest - weather from Ft. Wayne and an out-of-date SD Accu Wx Galileo they bought at a time when many stations in an area this size were considering HD graphics systems. Granite won't put a dime into any sort of improvement whatsoever. They are just content to leave everything just the same.

I figured that WMBD reduced their numbers because it didn't matter. Their number of Meteorologists dwindled to just 1 from 2. At least now they've raised to 3 and have become stronger overall once again. I just hope it works this time. With NBC capsizing, hopefully WMBD will get the #1 spot they've so-deserved for years! It's a horrible injustice to see WEEK managing things like they are right now and receive #1 overrated news spots. I'm curious as to what their latest ratings are going to be.

I haven't seen very many markets this size without a single station that owns true live Dopplar radar. And with Granite sucking up the money of 3 stations, shouldn't they have the resources to purchase the rest of the equipment necessary to not have to switch to SD every time they run a crawl of some sort? WICS, WAND, WQAD, KWQC and even KHQA & WGEM are how stations in a market this size should look. WMBD is, by far, the closet to those, WEEK isn't even close. WEEK isn't even on par with WGEM & KHQA. WHOI deserved to be #2, now WEEK has made them worthy of #3.

I know the shortcomings of WEEK vs WMBD, and I do try to educate people, but not very many people will listen to me. But like I said above, hopefully things will change. Granite lost the #1 spot in some of the other markets where it has meddled to stations that were not involved in the merger.