“I’m a money person,” Stephanie Miller declared rather shamelessly to our class on Wednesday. “I’m here to make a profitable business.”
Now that statement isn’t one that tends to frequent journalistic conversation. It’s always about education, about the proliferation of accurate information, about us providing some sort of under-appreciated service, solely for the good of humankind. But maybe that Miller is onto something, maybe not thinking about money [or trying to appear like we don’t] is why none of us are making any.
As the Director of Digital Media at WBZ-TV, Miller’s strategy is simple: stop providing what you think your consumers need and just ask them what they want.
No more of this ‘we provide the news that you want to hear’ mentality. Now it’s ‘what do you want to know?’
Kindof like this:
“What pisses you off? What makes you crazy? What makes you curious?” Those are Miller’s questions.
The curious simply fill out a form stating their curiosity which is filed away into an expansive database called COLOSYS to be charted and distilled, yielding one vital product: the pulse of Bostonian interest.
WBZ reporters watch the accumulating curiosities and pluck from them potential stories which they can then report, assured of the news’ relevance.
But Miller admitted, while the endeavor has already accumulated a handful of regular users, they have a ways to go.
“Now it’s about getting people to talk to us, and about instilling brand loyalty,” she said.
They’ve secured the crowd that’s been theirs since the get go– those 40 and up with an especially active elderly community. But now it’s about reeling in the younger crowd, those 18-30-year-olds who might not be as familiar with WBZ. For this, Miller’s looking to hip new social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. They even have an iPhone application– curiosity can strike at any moment.
But here’s my question: while the older, WBZ loyalists may hop right on this train, is Miller ever going to really capture the interest [or curiosities] of the younger generation? My guess is that with the internet providing a home to every highly-specialized odd and end, this generation has already forged the path to their own answers. They don’t have to ask the trusty old news station, because they’ve already hunted down a perfect little selection of niche blogs or online publications that cater to those everyday pangs of curiosity. But only time will tell, and I’m curious to see.