First, it was rock and pop stars dying on the weekend.
Then it was tornadoes.
Now Mitt Romney chooses Saturday morning at 9am ET to announce his new running mate, Paul Ryan.
For some reason, big news keeps happening on Saturday and Sunday when many media outlets are staffed with part-timers – or worse, automation systems.
There was probably no shortage of news/talk radio stations caught flat-footed by the biggest political announcement of the summer, the naming of a surprise VP nominee.
But so was the New York Times.
Think about the timing…
There were heavy rumors about Romney announcing Ryan on Friday night. Early Saturday morning, my phone was blasting with texts from multiple news sources that had the story. And at 9am ET on Saturday, the event took place in Norfolk.
So 24 hours later, I grab my Sunday edition of the New York Times and while the story was all over the front page, the OpEd section was devoid of any Ryan analysis. In fact, there was an already dated piece about Romney’s tax policies.
Why does this matter? Our newest Public Radio Tech Survey shows a drop in daily newspaper readership (print or online), and that’s among the most educated radio audience on the planet.
And the circulation figures speak for themselves. If radio’s cume audiences were dropping like these numbers, it would be panic time for the RAB, the NAB, and every broadcaster in America.
In the meantime, I was reading Paul Ryan stories online at Huffington Post, and on my news apps for more than 24 hours in anticipation of the Times’ “take” the next day. That’s the expectation that consumers have for their go-to brands, whether they’re newspapers or radio stations.
So if a rock star passes away over a weekend or when calamitous weather blows through town, isn’t it a radio station’s duty to get some core staffers back to work to cover the event?
And in the Times’ case, you mean to tell me that Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, and Gail Collins couldn’t be bothered over a weekend to do their jobs – to provide timely, essential coverage and perspective for one of the biggest news stories of the year?
FM chip or no, radio has to step up to the plate and do what the audience “hires” it to do during crunch time. And while no one begrudges the newspaper industry saving money during this turbulent era for traditional media, don’t these fiscally conservative policies further erode an already dwindling industry?
There’s a price to austerity. Just ask the Greeks. It’s easy to slash and burn and save lots of money.
But to provide the kind of services that consumers demand and expect from brands requires having to pragmatically make some big audibles when the game’s on the line. It’s expected that the newspaper will be on your doorstep during slow news days, but it’s imperative that your news provider do what’s required when it really counts.
Over that weekend, the New York Times dropped the ball.
Hopefully, radio operators were taking notes.