Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

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The new National gets ready to launch

On Nov. 6, a quadra-headed monster will take the place of Peter Mansbridge, the lone anchor of CBC TV’s The National for most of the past 30 years.

It represents the corp’s best thinking about what the next generation of app0intment television news watchers want.

From CBCNews.ca (“New National looks to attract younger viewers with depth, analysis, more anchors“):

When the new version of TheNational premieres on Monday, Canadians will see a retooled program that has changed in two significant ways — the show will feature a team of anchors presenting fewer, but longer, stories that have been beefed up with more in-depth analysis.

The changes signify a challenge CBC’s flagship TV newscast and other nightly news broadcasters face — keeping and broadening their audience, particularly among younger news consumers, as they increasingly turn to new digital platforms to get their information.

“It is extremely difficult to win over new viewers within an existing platform, let alone an existing program,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the Virginia-based American Press Institute.

“It is just not entirely clear whether a TV show, an evening TV show or broadcast is going to win over younger audiences, period.

“I honestly don’t know if there will ever be a central gathering place for news anymore.”  …

But network executives believe The National is still relevant, that it continues to have a loyal television audience and can grow.

Which is why, they say, with the relaunch, it will become more like a brand — with National-branded stories published and airing throughout the day, on News Network and online. The show plans to beef up its digital presence with more online written content, podcasts and the introduction of a daily digital newsletter written by Jonathon Gatehouse, a former senior correspondent for Maclean’s magazine.

From the Globe and Mail (“CBC’s The National is set to take on a new identity. Will its audience follow?“):

The last time CBC Television overhauled its main newscast, in 1992, mergingThe National and The Journal newsmagazine into a 9 p.m. broadcast titled Prime Time News and naming Pamela Wallin a co-host with Mansbridge, ratings plummeted. But there were comparatively few places for Canadians to get their TV news, and two years later, when the changes were largely reversed, viewership slowly recovered.

Today, with viewers trickling away from nighttime newscasts that often simply repeat what they’ve already seen on their phones during the day, the public broadcaster has moved to re-engineer The National from the inside-out in hopes of making it not just appointment viewing for a new audience, but also the new brand of its sharpest online journalism.

Jennifer McGuire, the general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News, says the show’s overhaul began with a handful of basic questions: “‘What does a destination program have to do, in a continuous news environment?'” she asked rhetorically the other day during an interview at the Broadcasting Centre, where she was accompanied by Gruzuk as well as Jonathan Whitten, the executive director of CBC News, depth & context; and Caroline Harvey,The National‘s new executive producer. “‘How do we make The Nationalmore digital? How do we push the story forward, rather than just respond to the day? And how do we evolve or modernize our storytelling?’ That was the charge.”

Whitten noted that the architecture of The National‘s first half-hour, like most evening news programs, has remained essentially static for decades: six or seven packaged reports, each running roughly two minutes in length, interspersed with a handful of briefs – video clips over which an anchor would read explanatory voice-overs.

“It was a validation of the day that was, right?” McGuire said.

But just as most newspapers long ago abandoned the goal of being papers of record and pivoted to offering readers original journalism as well as greater context of big unfolding stories – a strategy that works well online – The National will be more selective of what it will cover.

The new model, Whitten said, will see the show drill down on “three, four, sometimes five stories that we can take a look at and we can add value to, and push forward in the evening. So it’s about still being rooted in the news, but not feeling like we have to capture everything that’s happened, because we know that people have a different way of getting that.

“We think increasingly the audience is going to demand more at the end of the day. Some may think we’re jumping too fast into a world where we’re abandoning that six or seven, two-minute news item [model], but we think that’s what the positioning for the future’s about.”

McGuire was asked about the thorny issue of ratings:

Will the TV ratings matter to her? “I will watch the TV ratings, as I always do,” she said. “If they go down at the start, am I going to panic? No.”

And then McGuire, who normally holds her cards close to her chest on such matters, made a prediction: “A year from now, I expect the ratings to match or grow from what the show is.”

In today’s chaotic media world, not going down is the new up.

Fri, November 3 2017 » Main Page, Media