Last night, I was where I have been on so many election nights in the last two decades, I was in the newsroom working with my staff to deliver real-time election results to our audiences on desktop, social and mobile. We fired off mobile alerts to our subscribers as soon as we were confident of the result, and I realised that we’re at the beginning of the end for linear, 24-hour news channels. Mobile eats linear TV for breakfast.
TV remains powerful, and I know the power of being able to go ‘LIVE’. I worked for the BBC, but I have long thought that the 24-hour news channel was a technological kludge, a sticking plaster before internet access was ubiquitous and video on demand became a much more elegant solution for getting news to readers and viewers when there was real news to break. Last night, that sticking plaster seemed to come off.
I’ve passed back and forth between broadcast and print through my career, but last night I was in a local newspaper newsroom for the first time since the mid-90s. We had CNN on in the background and I had my iPhone next to me. We groaned every time Wolf Blitzer said that they had a “major projection” as every projection became major, especially after it became abundantly clear that the Republicans would take control of the Senate. If we would have had a drinking game for every time Wolf had a “major projection”, we would have been plastered by half eight. What really grated was when the on-air banter went on-and-on while the “major projection” had come into my mobile phone 10, 15 or even 20 minutes before Wolf projected, the music played and the graphics on the telly showed me what I already knew.
The cable-beating alerts came from USA Today or NPR. (Disclaimer: I’m an executive editor over two Gannett newspapers, and USA Today is our flagship national newspaper.) But there you have had it. Real-time, rolling TV was beaten by print sending out mobile alerts. Now, CNN might have been beating their on-air projections with their own mobile alerts; I don’t have CNN’s app installed on my iPhone.
The important thing is that mobile told me what I wanted to know earlier and more efficiently than cable news. The days of the technological kludge of 24-hour, rolling news channels are numbered.