Pushing safety during Sandy

Usually when we see our push messaging volumes growing far beyond 100M in a day it’s due to major sporting events where many people across the globe want immediate updates. Hurricane Sandy turned the desire for real-time information from a want to a need, and many local TV news affiliates served up push notifications to deliver up-to-the-minute updates to local communities as the storm hit landfall.


Push messages from a local NBC network affiliate as Hurricane Sandy came onshore

Ninety percent of people never have their phone more than three feet from them, which makes it a particularly compelling platform for communications in cases of emergencies, and likely a core reason that Apple integrated “Government Alerts” for AMBER and emergency notifications within iOS 6. Additionally, with mobile even when power goes out, you may have hours of battery life left, unlike other communications channels. Push may be the only way you can find out critical information.


Good Samaritans helping out neighbors during Hurricane Sandy highlighting the most in-demand device needing power....mobile phones (source: http://www.facebook.com/naptown)

Obviously, public safety is the most important thing any of us could ever strive to help ensure, and we are happy to see push messaging playing an important role. Our hearts, and for many of us our prayers, go out to everyone on the East Coast dealing with the aftermath of the storm.

From a business perspective, local TV remains America’s most popular source of local news and information, particularly for weather and breaking news. But, as with many other forms of media, they continue face challenges in their attempts to grow audiences and revenues.

The Pew Research Center recently released a study that shows mobile news consumers, especially app users, are more engaged than their PC counterparts. They spend more time per session with news on mobile devices than they do on computers and read more articles per month. And in mobile, there is a move away from search as the universal content gateway, giving publishers an opportunity to grow direct relationships with consumers and capture more digital revenue. In fact, comparing mobile app behavior to data collected on news website behavior suggests on average that users return to news apps more than five times as often over the course of the month and spend a minute longer per session.

Any serious media entity today should be moving into mobile with gusto. Pew Internet Research has oodles of compelling data and examples of what others are doing including the following from it’s annual The State of the News Media 2012:

Some local stations already have tapped new audiences and new revenue streams with mobile apps and social media. The NBC affiliate in Orlando, Fla., WESH, for example, offered updates on the Casey Anthony trial via a 99-cent smartphone app that became an iTunes best-seller. The station also launched a dedicated Facebook page that picked up more than 275,000 followers, six times as many as the main WESH page on Facebook. The Fox station in Los Angeles, KTTV, took a similar approach during the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray in the death of Michael Jackson.

Social media also became a more important platform for many local TV stations during severe weather in 2011. KOMU in Columbia, Mo., used its Facebook page to help coordinate the response to the tornado that devastated Joplin in May. Stations along the East Coast, including WWBT in Richmond, Va., posted regular social media updates on Hurricane Irene to reach people without power who could not watch its nonstop TV coverage. "That’s a leap forward over anything I saw last year," said Mark Toney of SmithGeiger.

In the meantime, broadcasters are looking for other ways to offer video that is as mobile as the audience. Scripps-owned stations in nine markets now offer a free mobile app that can deliver live streaming content to smartphones and tablets during breaking news or severe weather.

The ability to watch live, local television on handsets could have a substantial impact on the future of the industry. SmithGeiger's Mark Toney said, "You read gloom and doom about the demise of broadcast, but research says consumption may double when it's able to be seen on mobile devices."