Director of Content, KSDK-TV
Carol Fowler is Director of Content at KSDK-TV, the NBC affiliate in St. Louis. At the time this research was conducted, she was Senior Vice President of News Products for the Chicago Sun-Times. Before that she held news executive roles with several Chicago television stations. A digital innovator and entrepreneur, Fowler has been an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University and a co-facilitator on a Poynter Institute project to find new ways to cover Chicago’s underserved communities.
(The Chicago Sun-Times is) having to sell subscriptions at such a low price point. … If (the Sun-Times) had a national footprint like the New York Times or Washington Post, that sort of company can lean against their subscriptions. … Digital subscriptions are a focus ... but that alone will never ... be enough.
Just one-off advertising is not the future. The future is presenting sponsors, getting advertisers to pay for 100 percent share of voice.
(The Sun-Times) did a deal with Allstate and produced content around young artists, teenagers who are gifted artistically, and did video features and created editorial content around these gifted kids and Allstate wanted its brand aligned. It has a huge artistic initiative and paid us to create the content. And the beauty of this is that these presenting advertisers give us absolute editorial independence; they don’t have any say-so over what we write. They’re along because there’s value to their brand. It’s not unlike PBS, like you’re watching ‘Nova’ and you see Samsung is underwriting this episode of ‘Nova’ or whatever. Samsung doesn’t tell the producers of ‘Nova’ what to put in their show. They have an interest in being aligned. That’s the model that honestly, I feel, is really the future for media and it’s a big learning curve. It requires a company where there are dedicated people on the editorial team who work closely with the sales and marketing teams. There can’t be this big firewall there, those days are gone. If there is, you’re not gonna make it, you’re just not.
(The Sun-Times has) a policy of digital first, but it can be a struggle to break the habits of orienting the assignments and the deadlines to support the print product. … There’s a rhythm with the newspaper product … and it’s a bit of a challenge in that there’s certain print things that have to be supported and they may not necessarily be in harmony with what we would do with the content if we were strictly a digital company. But the print product is still very important and is most closely associated with the brand. Some days I would say yeah, we were absolutely digital first, other days we’re not.
You can’t just launch a podcast and expect people to find it and start downloading it like crazy. Everybody’s got a podcast, and I will tell you in my own conversations with people who do similar jobs … podcasts have probably been the most difficult area of innovation. To scale a podcast when you’re starting flat-footed … it’s difficult.
I think if newspapers can figure out a digital model that hinges on having a mix of content that’s monetized in a different way, their odds are as good as TV or radio because (newspapers) are story-centric and ... just not looking to put video online. (Newspapers are) creating video that complements a print story and that’s uniquely what people want to see on the web, not segments produced for a television screen.