I talked with a reporter last week about social media and the news. She kept asking, “can social media get us another ratings point?” I said that it could by simply connecting our product to new viewers who are using social networks, but that it would be hard to analyze the numbers. Numbers don’t tell us why we get numbers. Could it be our promotions? Could it be our community efforts? Could it be our efforts on social media? The analytics just aren’t there like they are with the Internet where every click can be tracked. (If I’m wrong and there is a way, PLEASE tell me!)

My question back to the reporter was, “why are we constrained to TV only?” She couldn’t fathom any other world other than the TV news world of designated shows and deadlines. I think her line of thinking is completely wrong. TV news and deadlines aren’t going away anytime soon. While the number of households with Internet has tripled from 1997 – 2007, not every household has internet. (I take calls weekly from people complaining that the news puts all the resources on the Web. They complain because they don’t have Internet access.) Also according to NielsenWire, “Despite the array of options, television continues to be the primary way Americans of all ages consume media.” So I see why the reporter can’t picture a future without set newscasts that compete against each other.

I do though. Information moves and weaves through social networks at lightning speed. In light of this, I believe newscasts are becoming like the newspapers, the news source that is reporting old news. I asked the reporter, “Why can’t full and complete stories that are ready before the newscast be made available on the Web site at that moment?” She looked at me like I was crazy. Her answer again was numbers. “If you make content available early, why would anyone watch the news?”

Sure we may lose some viewers, but overall those that are consuming news primarily through the Internet now, aren’t going to turn on the TV anyway. We can still make money with advertising and sponsors on the Web site and attached to the stories. No, I’m not an expert; I’m not a marketer; I’m not an ads woman or sales associate, but I honestly don’t see the why this wouldn’t work. I do know the business world is full of numbers. Analytics are concrete numbers. If we start making content available before newscasts, we will create an audience advertiser and sponsors want to reach.

I don’t have all the answers. My Magic 8 Ball laughs at me when I ask it about the future of news, just like it laughs at me when I ask it about Colorado weather. I just believe those of us in the news industry must be searching for ways to stay relevant. News isn’t going away. People will search for news sources and good content. Whether we like it or not we must now find ways to reach those people instead of relying on them finding us.