Former OnMilwaukee.com political columnist Dennis Shook's fine piece in this week's Shepherd Express about the sorry state of local TV news got me thinking: it's high time someone called out Milwaukee affiliates on their weak and numerous attempts to drive traffic to their underwhelming Web sites.
Here's what I mean: at the end of a story about an important charitable event, you don't hear, "For more information, visit the Arthritis Foundation's Web site at arthritis.org."
Nope. Never. What you hear, for example, is "You can find a link to the Arthritis Foundation's Web site at our Web site, myfoxmilwaukee.com. Just look under our links section!"
That's what we in the business call cheap traffic (or at least that's what I call it). Sending someone to your Web site purely to find a link -- or repeating your own site name a dozen times during a weather segment -- isn't exactly a strong or a convincing call to action.
It's more like a pitiful misunderstanding of how the Web works in 2007. I'll bet you a cyberbuck -- I just made that word up -- that the people making these "editorial" decisions don't know what del.icio.us or "Web 2.0" is, either. Moreover, they haven't, like the rest of the world, come to grips with the Internet's race to media domination that has pretty much changed everything, including TV.
But come to think of it, we once had this policy: No one gets a link on OnMilwaukee.com unless they pay for it.
That was in 1998.
Come on, local TV stations. You want to make themilwaukeechannel.com, todaystmj4.com, myfoxmilwaukeee.com (or whatever your flavor of the day is) a force to be reckoned with? Do it with more original content. That'll bring the traffic, and conceivably, the ad revenue -- if you can figure how to avoid cannibalizing your TV commercial income (hint: give viewers something they can't already find on your newscast, and I'm not talking about a "links" section).
But pimping your own Web site as a way to link viewers to information they just saw on your own newscast is about as deplorable as leading off a newscast with a feature on "American Idol" or "Dirty Dining."
(Fine, I'll fight one battle at a time.)
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.