FX CEO to present session at Excellence in Journalism Conference

FX Design Group CEO Mack McLaughlin will host a session at the combined conference of RTDNA and SPJ.

The session titled: Back from the Future! Delivering the News in 2020 is scheduled to be held from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 at the Harbor Beach Marriott. Full release after the jump.

The rate of change affecting the broadcast industry continues at a torrid pace, so the team at FX Design Group, led by McLaughlin, constantly asks What’s Next? What’s Essential to the Audience? What does the Future Hold? Understanding the answers to these questions enables his team to focus on providing broadcasters with set and graphic designs that communicate successfully to television viewers.

The session begins with the premise that FX and Magid have brought back intelligence from the future of television. They will share how news delivery and presentation will likely change in the future to a degree, but not as radically as many predict. While on-camera technology and the integration of Social Media into newscasts occurs, what viewers expect and what is effective at connecting with this audience remains a question mark. This session will help broadcasters effectively invest in and plan for the future.

For the Back from the Future session, Danielski will be fittingly brought in remotely by technology. And this style may become an important part of the newscast in the future – one station, KOMU-TV, is currently doing a news cast this way – bringing in reporters and guests via Google+.

Some of us probably remember Max Headroom, the first computer-generated TV Host – introduced in the 1980’s. This may be pre-destined as a presentation style. However, many experts disagree, since they concur that the right talent still matters, as viewers connect with authentic personalities and people. In an earlier FX-commissioned landmark research study that Magid conducted, talent remains pertinent and relevant reasons to watch local TV news. In an era where TV news is remarkably similar, the TV talent actually provides important distinctions to separate one station’s news from the next.

Another trend is the incorporation of social media into the newscast. For example, KIRO-TV recently presented #KIROConnect with Jenni Hogan which crossed a traditional TV special with Social Media to offer viewers ways they could utilize social media platforms and apps, it also called on viewers to interact in real-time via platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

With explosion of applications such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and the fact that a growing number of people are connecting through social media, the integration of social media and television will continue, however it requires a huge investment in time, personnel and strategic thought and execution. It gives broadcasters an opportunity to connect with viewers and have important two-way conversations – thereby engaging the viewers directly on important and pertinent issues. “The chance to build loyalty – to engage one on one is a big change for broadcasters who are used to a one-way conversation. However the chance to engage is fraught with issues unless the communication is relevant, consistent and important to the end user “stated Danielski.

What’s Old is New Again: Virtual Sets that made their debut in the 1990’s were very cartoonish and not suitable for a credible newscast. However, with the technology improving and becoming more affordable, and the power to crunch out polygons greatly improving – McLaughlin predicts that virtual sets will have a comeback. It’s difficult to even classify it as a comeback since the designs will be light years ahead of where they were aesthetically.

The challenge is that the designs that are out there currently seem to be driven by technology for technology’s sake. “Basically the tech guys are creating the designs for what looks cool rather than with the aesthetics of great design,” says McLaughlin. Ideally a professional broadcast set designer, for example FX’s Glenn Anderson, who is known for his photo-realistic designs, would design a set that would create a credible background. The technology should make it easier, not technology for technology’s sake. Don’t make it about the tech – or you will lose” adds McLaughlin. “It is about knowledgeable people delivering quality stories – not about how you get the story. Don’t focus on the platform, tell good stories and you will win. It’s about effective communication and connection – and the content. You have to deliver it faster, better, cheaper and that is where the technology comes in.

FX has always approached design in a research-based, logical way, focusing on what viewers desire, want and need. In 2010, to provide hard data for that approach, FX commissioned Magid to conduct a landmark research study on viewers’ preferences, especially focusing on HD – results of that survey were conclusive and still provides data-driven direction to FX’s designs. However, so much continues to evolve in television viewing habits that a follow-up study is planned for later this year.

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