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May 12

Evolve or Die: How One Local Broadcaster Is Retaining Audience Through Innovation and Participation

We’re profiling our successful clients to illustrate how they are using iPowow’s audience engagement platform to further their goals of driving ratings, retaining viewership and telling great stories. Following is an interview we did with WJXT Executive Producer Josh Beauchamp.

You need a big toolbox and iPowow is one of those tools. If you’re not evolving, then you’re dying.

While the television industry as a whole continues it’s seismic shift under the pressures of evolving audience behavior, emerging distribution models and diversified ad spend, local broadcast has faced its own challenges.

Competition for viewer’s eyeballs has never been fiercer for local news. Social media like Twitter, MCNs like Vice, local news sites like Newscastic, and live streaming citizen journalists have all snacked on the audience pie. So what’s a local station to do? Doubling down on popular content is one avenue, and sports, weather and traffic reporting have already increased on local broadcast to the loss of editorial packages (according to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 State of the Media study). But aside from strategically shifting content inside the newscast some producers have taken an outward view, looking to innovative platforms like iPowow.

Innovation has traditionally been a resource intensive process but eventually the best ideas emerge and become scalable, opening what was once an expensive or laborious process to new markets. For hungry local broadcasters the opportunity to adopt new tools to attract and retain audience and tell better stories is a relief and a way forward through the evolving landscape.

We are the front page of history, and though we are a local broadcaster we provide network quality coverage

j-beauchampWJXT Channel 4 Executive Producer Josh Beauchamp always saw himself covering sports, at 6’6” he is as much a presence in the studio as he was on the field when he played Division I football at Jacksonville University in Florida where he studied Communications and Media.

Growing up in Jacksonville, the chance to join local independent broadcaster WJXT Channel 4 couldn’t have been more opportune. After interning at the station he came on board as a segment producer and 11 years later now runs morning programming as Executive Producer.

WJXT, who recently won a 2014 National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Website (news4jax.com), understands the importance of balancing innovation, solid storytelling and audience engagement and Beauchamp has helped spearhead the broadcaster’s efforts.

“We understood quickly that there needs to be a presence on multiple levels,” he said speaking of the impact of emerging digital opportunities on broadcasters. “We need to be accessible everywhere, that’s the future of television. For local TV, the more access you can provide, the better. You are doing a disservice to your audience otherwise.”

And audience is key for Beauchamp and WJXT, especially finding ways to engage on multiple levels. Enter iPowow – Beauchamp and his team were introduced to the Participation TV platform when they were attempting to organize a live event for 2014s Fourth of July coverage. The ability to engage viewers in real-time for the planned WJXT “Oh, Say Can You Sing” singing competition was of paramount importance.

“We needed a quick fix [for our Fourth of July singing competition] and iPowow stepped up to the plate. I was impressed when Matt [Mantyla, iPowow Senior Producer] gave up his long weekend to come down here to help us with the execution. It worked like a charm.”

After the success of “Oh, Say Can You Sing” which saw over one million votes cast by the audience as they selected their favorite singer for the July 4th special, Beauchamp implemented live audience polling into morning and daytime news broadcasts. And the consistent and creative use of the platform has become an established part of the WJXT audience experience. “Viewer participation is key, it’s part of the newscast,” Beauchamp says, adding that audience participation is a continually evolving part of programming. “We want our audience to have direct access… and our customers are demanding it.”

The iPowow platform has been used by WJXT to not only entertain, as part of family programming like “Oh, Say Can You Sing” but also to inform and enlighten, driving conversation around local, regional and national issues like elections. WJXT is using real-time audience polling during debates and considering the relevance Florida has on a national scale, audience reaction to this innovative station’s approach to information gathering will translate to particularly engaging coverage of the upcoming 2016 US elections.

Ultimately, it comes down to engaging and retaining audience – a diminishing commodity – and something local broadcasters must grapple with considering the increased distractions and noise in the media space. Producers, like Josh Beauchamp, look to innovative tools in order to help them tell great stories and keep their audience leaning forward and returning.

“You need a big toolbox and iPowow is one of those tools,” Beauchamp says. “If you’re not evolving, then you’re dying.”