Is Repetition Killing Your Newscast?

A photo of a man's face repeating itself on a tablet screen
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A local TV station with more time committed to local news broadcasts than its competitors can build its media brand around that fact. However, several hours of local news each morning followed by a noon newscast, two more hours in the evening, then a late newscast provides a lot of time to inform viewers. Failing to use that time wisely by repeating too many stories too often can cause your marketing strategy to backfire.

Assessing Damage

Market research including focus groups can reveal how much viewers have noticed the repetition of stories and whether they have changed their viewing habits as a result.

In a two-hour morning newscast, it's possible that it's not a problem at all. During that time of day, viewers may watch for only 15 or 20 minutes. If you repeat stories each half-hour, most people are going to see them only one time anyway.

However, if you have a typical early evening news block that runs from 5–6:30 p.m., you likely want viewers to stick around for 90 minutes. Repeating the same story every half hour during this part of the day can be a turnoff for people, especially if the report is presented in an identical way each time.

More newscasts result in a bigger news hole that needs to be filled with fresh content, and viewers start reaching for the remote control when they realize they're watching the same report they already viewed earlier in the day.

A Fresh Approach

A resourceful home cook can take a leftover Thanksgiving turkey and whip it up into a fresh new casserole. As a TV news producer, you can approach some news stories the same way.

Report the basics of a house fire at 5 p.m., then follow up at 6 p.m. with new information such as an eyewitness who spotted the fire, called 911, and rescued a dog from the flames. The later report can include a quick recap of the basic facts and even include some of the same footage, but by keeping the focus on the eyewitness, it still offers new information in a different way.

TV news reporters and editors can help with this process by coordinating their efforts to break up one news story into multiple related reports. This works only with some stories and some facts. The 5 p.m. version can't be left stripped of basic information just to serve the 6 p.m. broadcast. For example, if emergency crews had to close off surrounding streets to fight the fire or if people died in the fire, those fundamental facts should be reported upfront and not held for later.

Journalists are trained to be able to report the same sets of facts from multiple perspectives. Marketing professionals can promote these different variations of the same story as fresh takes on similar content.

Promotion and Teasing

One of the ways to promote your newscast is through effective tease writing. A skilled news producer can use this to draw viewers through a long block of news, some of which may appear repetitive on the surface.

Viewers are more willing to sit through a story that does not interest them if they know it will be followed by a report on a topic they do care about.

A news anchor could acknowledge that the first day of elementary school for local students was reported at 5, then promote a story at 6 that looks at how the same students are being kept safe as they walk home from school. This acknowledges that viewers have seen part of your coverage while trying to convince them to stick around because they're about to see something new.

Some stations go a step further and highlight an all-new story visually. You might see a font on the screen that reads, "All New at 6 p.m." or something similar to showcase a story that was intentionally saved for the 6 o'clock broadcast, even though it may have been put together the day before.