As the November sweeps wind up, TVSpy.com asked a number of news directors around the country to talk about the quarterly sweeps period — and what are “successful” sweeps stories they plan and execute coverage during the important ratings period. One of those polled was WFTV veteran news director Bob Jordan. His answer, below, is that a successful station needs to act like it’s in a sweeps period all the time …
If the definition of a “sweeps story that works” is one that increases ratings, I would argue that most sweeps stories produced by local television stations do not work. They don’t move the needle.
I analyze ratings every day. Here’s what drives them: consistent execution of superior local news coverage. A strong lead-in is highly desirable (almost every station that ran “Oprah” as a news lead-in enjoyed a #1 newscast in the time period that followed) and trumps stunting.
It’s true that severe weather and breaking news spike ratings, but you can’t schedule either to happen during a ratings period. A well-executed, highly promoted investigative piece can spike ratings, but few of them actually do.
In today’s media environment, a winning station has to produce compelling content every day. At WFTV, we run a modified “sweeps drill” 12 months a year and simply ramp it up during rating periods. We choose stories that reinforce our brand.
Producing so-so content 9 months out of the year and then trotting out special content for the other 3 is not a winning strategy.