Case Study: Tribune Broadcasting

Tribune WGN Homepage

Centering a Fragmented Identity

Businesses looking to grow quite frequently do so through the purchase of other companies. This has the benefit of jump starting a market where previously they had none. For Tribune Broadcasting, this came in the way of growing a viewer audience by acquiring news outlets around the United States, including stations like KTLA5 in Los Angeles, WGN in Chicago, and WPIX11 in New York. This also comes at a cost: fragmentation of the corporate brand. So what does one do when you acquire a couple dozen smaller brands, all with their own unique audience and identity?

Supporting Local Markets
Any acquisition by a corporation can be broken down into primary and secondary goals. With Tribune Broadcasting’s purchase of national news outlets, the primary goal was expanding a viewer base in various local markets. Naturally the next step would be to keep that viewership, which necessitates the obvious followup question: “how did each station grow a successful viewer base in the first place?” After all, it is this viewership that made them attractive enough to purchase. To go in and change branding would run the risk of alienating that which was desirable to begin with.

Thus a much more viable solution is to lean in, catering to each station’s existing audience by providing better delivery, better support, and better structure, all without changing the station’s brand identity. For this project, WordPress’s Multisite tool offered the perfect solution. Using a baseline install as the platform for Tribune Broadcasting’s websites, it became possible to update the core technologies for station sites from one centralized location, all without requiring individual interaction with station representatives. In addition, the construction of a set of customized WP themes could better support individual brand identities without getting in the way of the core multisite infrastructure. This also meant that smaller ultra-specific content for various stations could be spun up, giving station highlights like Pix11’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or WSVN Miami’s popular site Help Me Howard improved functionality with little to no cost in development.

Better technology plus better brand delivery equals better user engagement.

Reaching an Audience
Speaking of better user engagement, with a new core infrastructure in place, ad buys pushed out over-top existing WordPress themes means that it is easier for corporate marketing personnel to buy, schedule, and operate campaigns all from one location, strategically placing ads in those markets that would be most beneficial while leaving others alone. This increased the viability of ad placements on local and national levels and makes it easier to entice brands to advertise on Tribune-owned stations. Ad campaigns could be sold in tiers, allowing for the take over of specific locations on a station’s site or operating as a complete overlay, replacing station backgrounds, banner ads, and sponsored story content.

The use of geolocative services also improved delivery of content to the intended viewer base, allowing not only for targeted ad placement but sponsor-driven stories as well. A news story about a rain forecast could easily be coupled with an ad for umbrellas in any location potentially effected by the weather.

The Importance of “Native”
With the increased prevalence of mobile devices also came opportunity to utilize new functionality. Creating WordPress themes to be responsive only solves for the viewer who visits the station’s site from a browser. For those interested in a more customized approach, designing iOS and Android applications adds new tools for better interaction. Push notifications that alert the user to new content gave each station a more proactive way in reaching their audience.

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