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A sneak peek at what WCCO’s Wire is all about

wireAt its latest Bloginar gathering, WCCO-TV previewed The Wire, a site that will allow users to see a story develop over time. It also allows staffers and users to interact and contribute to stories as they develop. I had a chance to sit down with WCCO’s director of new media, John Daenzer to talk more about what WCCO hopes to accomplish with The Wire and to get a pre-launch walk-through of the service.

The origins of The Wire can be traced to a huddle with WCCO Brand Director Casey Kespohl nearly two years ago. “We had been thinking about creating some sort of environment to engage people more in not only news gathering but local news and information,” says John. “We didn’t know what it was.” (To see what it is right now, take a look at this screencast and commentary by John. Note: There is also a list view of The Wire in the offing.)

The launch date for The Wire, built in collaboration with the Nerdery at SierraBravo, was originally slated for Nov. 1, but that obviously will be pushed back as they continue to secure funds to develop it.

At the mention of funds, I realized that my conversation with John sounded more like one I might have with a start-up, rather than one I’d have with a director of a department for a large media organization. Admittedly, funding for these sorts of projects, even at the corporate level, is tricky. As a former employee of CBS myself on the radio side, I can speak from experience, and I’m sure it’s true at many companies, securing a budget for a project that deviates from “traditional” business development is almost more difficult than getting funding from complete strangers.

John points out that balancing the time and resources that will be spent on what WCCO traditionally does versus developing new avenues is a constant challenge. “My boss says we’re like scouts on a pony that ride ahead on the road to find new things … coming back and reporting what is a good road and what is not,” noted John. “The Wire is a road we’re riding down.”

This securing of funds continues, and John makes no bones that WCCO is open to outside money to complete the building and launch of The Wire. “We are actively seeking a sponsor to help build and launch The Wire. If you’re XYZ telecom, you’re not just looking to throw money around. You spend very carefully and strategically, especially right now.” He continues, “We believe we are going to find a company that believes something like this will benefit our community — and benefit the sponsor financially.”

Funding will also be determined by the return … the monetization of The Wire. Beyond the more traditional advertising and ability to purchase an event on the timeline, John and his team have considered other opportunities.

In fact, when I threw out the concept of selling a white label version to other media outlets, it was obviously not a new idea inside the building. John noted that other CBS-owned stations that have heard about this have expressed interest. “When can I have it?” is how John describes their excitement. He goes on to say, “My visceral response is ‘How much money do you have to help me build it?’ Within CBS, it’s all the same pot … Getting money from other stations within our family is not really worth it. Now outside … we haven’t really gone down that business model yet.”

Even though they haven’t acted on that new business model, it’s quite refreshing for a media fan like me to hear a company looking beyond its safety zone to examine the core vs. growth strategy. “I think it’s a great reflection of our leadership. I’m proud to be part of that,” says John.

An equally exciting statement that John made along this “start-up vibe” was that of dealing with competition. “This past Tuesday [at the Bloginar] I was asked why I was showing this, now somebody could steal it.” He goes on to say, “We have to worry about what is best for us and good for users and do it in a way that we think is best, as quickly as we can.”

In fact, in regards to The Wire, WCCO plans on welcoming input from those most would consider competitors. In our walk-through, he even notes posting items to the timeline from (gasp) other TV stations. Imagine a story from KARE11 being posted on WCCO’s Wire.

Start-up thinking and collaborating with competitors … from a traditional media outlet? Now that is innovation.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 11/10/2009 - 09:58 am.

    This is an interesting concept. However, who is going to become the key demographic which any start-up needs and sponsors seek? I still belive people want news and information that is easy and simple to read and able to comment at will. The layout of this seems to me to be more work to navigate then how Google news bullets up-to-the-minute information. Would abailable video and sound bites also be available? And, who checks the journalistic accuracy of the information? These questions and kinks I am sure are being examined. But, start-ups need to have a clear vision and at this point it appears this is a concept in development and not a polished mission statement or business model. I for one would like to see suburban newspapers (community based) involvement that would give local readers what they need in regards to local based stories. High School newspapers, sports, school boards, government, etc. Then, having those readers both young and old, find information that pertains to them. The public participates in a new way about those issues that pertain directly to them. Young people seeing information about them could attract people who like the social networking model. I wish WCCO well in this endevor but, I just feel being only so broad keeps this from attracting that all too often abused key demographic that advertisers and sponsors seek religiously.

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/10/2009 - 04:06 pm.

    Reminds me a lot of Google Wave.

  3. Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 11/10/2009 - 04:49 pm.

    Though the Wire sounds like a great innovation to news gathering and the journalism’s future horizons one thing remains disturbingly clear–what happens to old fashion credible reporters pounding the pavement in search of ‘reliable’ hard news sources and confirmable ‘factual’ hard news information?

    The way things are going for broadcast and newspaper reporters/journalists most seem to be desk bound news gatekeepers filter the latest from outside cyberspace sources or the blogosphere. Somewhere in all this, the hard facts and solid truth seem to be fractured in the process.

    The Wire does have its futuristic journalistic niche but the danger will be not attaining credibility and precise gathering of the factual hard truth to a news story.

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