Media Monday Edmonton: After 40 years, what’s next for Global Edmonton?

It was forty years ago today that Global Edmonton first went on the air. Then known as “Independent Television” or ITV, the channel was founded by Dr. Charles Allard. Through a series of acquisitions, the channel joined the Global family on September 4, 2000, and is today owned by Shaw Media. Over the years, Global Edmonton has been a big part of the lives of many Edmontonians, and indeed Canadians around the country. As Global Edmonton looks back on 40 years, I thought it would be a great opportunity to ask about what’s next.

Tim & Michael
Global Edmonton GM Tim Spelliscy & News Director Michael Fulmes, photo courtesy of Global Edmonton

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Michael Fulmes, News Director for Global Edmonton, to do just that. Michael is an industry veteran, starting his career in 1978 with CKCK Television in Regina. He joined Global Edmonton in the 2000s, first as Managing Editor before settling into his current role. In 2011, Michael was honored with a Distinguished Service Award from RTNDA Canada.

I wanted to know what Michael thought of the ever-changing media landscape. Without skipping a beat, he told me “this is the most dynamic, exciting time since the industry began!” And what about Global Edmonton’s place in that dynamic landscape? “We’re no longer broadcasters, we’re distributors of news and information,” he said, noting that the organization is now multi-platform, with a big emphasis on online content.

The future of the six o’clock news

That said, Michael made it clear that he doesn’t see conventional TV going away anytime soon. But surely the six o’clock news is dying, I suggested. Michael countered that with high ratings and great advertising demand, the flagship newscast is doing just fine. “Based on our metrics, Global Edmonton is number one in all newscasts in all demos,” he said. As for the six o’clock news, he said he doesn’t foresee the audience diminishing greatly, but did admit “there is some drifting.”

ITV red logo
This is the logo I grew up with

Global Edmonton is committed to ensuring the six o’clock news remains number one, Michael said, but added “we have to be adaptable.” He cited the 24/7 demand for news as one factor, and an increasing array of platform and technology choices as another. “Gone are the days that the viewer tunes into a regular schedule,” he declared. “We have to recognize our viewers are moving very fast.”

The future of news production

Given the emphasis that Global Edmonton is placing on online content production today, I asked Michael why it took so long for television channels to embrace online video. “We were slow in bringing video to the web,” he agreed. But they’ve turned the ship around completely, in Michael’s view. “I’m blown away,” he said. “For example, we have the largest number of Facebook followers now, it’s a testament to our online efforts.”

Is there room for Instagram, Snapchat, and other future services to play a role in Global Edmonton’s news distribution? “Absolutely,” Michael said. “We have to find new ways to follow [our audience], but respect the fact that our future is with local.”

Like other television channels, Global Edmonton has increasingly made use of new technologies like video from mobile phones, Google Earth, Skype, and others. “It’s because put in the right context, it’s the right thing to do,” Michael said. “That and the quality of those things has become so much better.” He added that techniques like the jump cut have also become more accepted over time.

The future of local news

Throughout our conversation, Michael mentioned the importance of local coverage. He turned to ITV’s founding to help explain. “It wasn’t just about launching an independent TV channel,” he said. “It was about connecting with the community and servicing that community.” Michael believes that connecting with the community for forty years gives Global Edmonton an edge against potential upstarts. “The more experience, the more you’ve done, the better able you are to move forward,” he said.

ITV original logo
The original ITV logo

That’s not to say it’ll be easy. “What’s difficult is staying connected with the community because they’re moving so fast!” He also mentioned the shift in attitudes toward brands. “The younger people of today don’t devote that brand loyalty the same way their parents did,” Michael said.

The irony of their name notwithstanding, Michael was clear about what it’ll take for Global Edmonton to compete in the future. “What’s going to distinguish us from everybody else is our ability to stay local and to cover our community.”

The future of Global Edmonton

I asked him to prognosticate about Global Edmonton over the next forty years. In the near-term, he said 4K video “is coming” but suggested it doesn’t make sense to rush out and buy a compatible TV today. “No one is producing content for it yet,” he said. But he knows technology will march forward. “It’s going so fast, it doesn’t surprise anybody anymore.”

Looking further ahead, Michael was thoughtful. “I have no doubt that Global Edmonton will be around for years to come,” he said. “But it’ll be a different monster.” It’s hard to predict the future, but when pressed, Michael suggested communication will be omnipresent, giving us the opportunity to “exchange communication at a moment’s notice.”

Even though the technology will change, Michael is confident that Global Edmonton will have a place in Edmonton’s future. “We are journalists because we have an insatiable curiosity, and our viewers have an insatiable appetite for news and information,” he said. “Whether you’re a reader, listener, watcher – we’re content providers and will continue to be.”

Global’s Woman of Vision has now profiled more than 230 Edmonton-area women doing great things

The 19th annual Global’s Woman of Vision luncheon was held at the Shaw Conference Centre last Friday. The event “celebrates the outstanding accomplishments of Edmonton-area women” and has now recognized over 230 women. I was fortunate enough to attend on a complementary media ticket.

“The consistently sold-out annual awards luncheon is the highlight of the Woman of Vision program, as it pays tribute to the inspirational women featured over the last year. Gold Sponsors give female university students $1,000 bursaries to help them realize their visions and 50 young women receive sponsored tickets to inspire them to consider where their visions may lead them. This emotional, spirit-lifting event is enhanced by words of wisdom from the women of vision themselves.”

The Woman of Vision feature airs on the first Monday of every month on Global Edmonton, produced and hosted by Lesley MacDonald. It was launched on ITV News in 1995, and has won two national broadcasting awards. It’s impressive that the program is still going strong!

Woman of Vision Luncheon

The twelve women recognized this year were:

You can read much more about each of them in the March 2014 issue of Avenue Edmonton magazine, and you can see some of the videos here.

I thought the format of the event was interesting. Each recipient was welcomed on stage to both receive her award, but also to answer a question posed by Lesley. The questions and answers were pre-prepared, but they still offered some additional information on each woman that I really appreciated. It was great to hear the recipients talk about their vision in their own words too.

I was extremely happy to see Kendall and Justine recognized as I think they are doing amazing things with Poppy Barley. The best is absolutely yet to come for their growing company! It was great to see a couple of representatives from our vibrant food community too, with Giselle and Amy. Duchess Bake Shop needs no introduction if you’re in Edmonton, and perhaps not even if you’re elsewhere in the country! I’m a big fan of Amy’s, not only because she still remembers my order at Chicken For Lunch, but because she truly does live her vision of “just be yourself”. She had everyone in the audience laughing!

Woman of Vision Luncheon

In addition to the women of vision, eight young women received bursaries.

“Sponsorships for the Global Woman of Vision Awards Luncheon include the creation of bursaries and awards to assist young women in furthering their education so they can pursue their own visions.”

Sponsors Global, Canadian Western Bank, Stantec, Enbridge, Afinity Life Sciences, Sterling Homes, Groot DermaSurgery, and MacEwan University all provided a bursary. The 2014 bursary recipients were:

  • Lindsay Rankin, Radio & Television Broadcasting, NAIT
  • Brishti Kayastha, Bachelor of Commerce, MacEwan University
  • Miranda Stahn, WISEST, University of Alberta
  • Angelica Prieto, Civil Engineering, University of Alberta
  • Ensaf Almomani, Physiology, University of Alberta
  • Sonic Budac, Architectural Technology, NAIT
  • Stephanie Lim, Medicine, University of Alberta
  • Rowan Sallstrom, Anthropology, MacEwan University

Watch for those women to continue doing interesting and impactful things in the years ahead!

If you’d like to nominate a Woman of Vision from the Edmonton area, you can do so online. Nominations are reviewed every two months by the Global Woman of Vision Advisory Board. You can see more photos from the event here, courtesy of That Just Happened.

Thanks again to Lesley and her team for the opportunity to attend!

Media Monday Edmonton: Global Edmonton’s Tim Spelliscy on local news ratings

Last week the first ever BBM PPM (Portable People Meter) ratings for television in Edmonton were released. Known as the Fall 2011 survey, the ratings cover the time period beginning September 12, 2011 and ending December 18, 2011. The ratings are further broken down into three demographic categories: 18+, 18-49, and 25-54. The top show in Edmonton? Big Bang Theory, on CTV Edmonton, with an average of 117,000 viewers per minute during each broadcast. In the 18+ demographic, Global Edmonton scored 5 of the top 10 shows, followed by CTV Edmonton with 4, and CBC Edmonton with 1.

That’s interesting, but what I really care about is local news, stuff that is produced here in Edmonton. Here are the numbers for local news for the 18+ demographic:

18+

Here are the numbers for local news for the 18-49 demographic:

18-49

Here are the numbers for local news for the 25-54 demographic:

25-54

All of that data comes from: BBM Canada PPM, Edmonton EMA, Sep 12-Dec18/11; min 3 airings. AMA means average minute audience, the average number of viewers per minute during the broadcast.

What I find particularly interesting is that in the 18+ demographic, the six o’clock news for both Global and CTV do quite well at #3 and #10 respectively, but if you look at the 18-49 demographic they drop considerably, to #26 and #44. That suggests to me that seniors make up a big chunk of the audience for the local six o’clock news. Not an encouraging sign if that’s your business.

Still, as far as as news is concerned it was a strong result for Global Edmonton, and their news release says as much:

Edmontonians have made it perfectly clear: their number one choice for news is Global Edmonton. According to BBM PPM (Portable People Meter) Fall 2011 survey, all of Global Edmonton’s newscasts continue to win their timeslots – morning, noon and night in total audience and in all key demographics including A18-49 and A25-54. Edmonton was recently added to the BBM’s electronic PPM system, providing a much better estimate of viewing habits.

tim spelliscyGiven that Global did so well in the first survey, I wanted to hear what Tim Spelliscy, Global’s Regional Director for News in Alberta, thought of the results. He agreed to answer my questions via email.

  1. Why is the BBM PPM survey important to Global Edmonton?

This is the first extensive survey using new (PPM) technology, so we know it’s a more accurate reflection of actual viewing rather than someone trying to recall what they watched and filling out a survey by hand. It reflects viewing patterns that we felt were happening, so it confirmed what our own research had been telling us about audience support.

  1. What’s the impact of being #1 in news?

Edmonton is a strong news market with excellent production provided by several local stations, so to come out as the top news station by such a wide margin is very flattering. We are grateful for this kind of support, and it’s fantastic for all of our sponsors and community partners to know that they are associated with a very strong local news brand. I think the confirmation that we are number one will bring new viewers to our news programs. They want to see what they’ve been missing.

  1. The News Hour is the 3rd most watched program in the 18+ demographic, but it falls to 26th when you narrow the demographics to 18-49. Does that concern you?

We’re still the top news program in 18-49, and the numbers are close with a lot of other shows, but it does give us an area we can work on. We can always do a better job attracting younger viewers.

  1. What’s on the horizon for Global Edmonton? How are you going to remain #1?

We’ve got to keep doing the small things right to remain number one. We have to focus on story selection and story treatment and we need to be on top of breaking news and ensure we are covering the stories that viewers really care about. That seems simple to do, but it’s not. I think there are lots of areas where we can improve the news programs we produce, but there won’t be any major overhauls – just some tweaking. We also need to continue to be the local news leader in our use of technology. We’ve done well with an early conversion to HD and we have the only television news helicopter in our city. We have some good ideas about what changes and improvements we can make next – stay tuned!

  1. Which of the other top Global shows is your favorite?

It’s Glee for sure. We try to watch it every week or I set my SHAW PVR and watch Glee on the weekend. Good characters and good music. It’s light, funny and an “escape”!

Thanks to Tim for answering my questions!

I look forward to the next survey results.

Twitter, Embargoes, and Breaking News

At the end of March, Global Edmonton’s Lynda Steele, one of our city’s most prominent media Twitterers, abruptly said goodbye and deleted her account. She suggested that Global was consolidating accounts, which understandably raised the ire of many local users (for more check out Adam’s post). Last week, a different truth emerged, thanks to a tweet from CBC’s John Archer. He posted this PDF (archive) of a letter sent from the provincial government’s Public Affairs Bureau to Global Edmonton (it has been clicked more than 550 times). In it, PAB Managing Director Lee Funke informs Global Edmonton that for breaking the budget embargo, they would be denied access to any embargoed information until the end of 2010. Lynda was the one who broke the embargo, by posting tweets before the 3:20 PM budget address, so that’s likely why she left Twitter (though there may be other reasons too).

Much has already been written about whether or not the decision is warranted, and even whether or not we need embargoes in this day and age. For more, check out Dave’s post. As someone who continually pushes for open, accessible information, I think you can guess where I stand. And with that in mind, and in addition to the PDF letter above, here are some of the facts.

The four tweets that started all of this, written by @lyndasteele:

BREAKING BUDGET NEWS – Another record deficit, more money for health care and hope for recession recovery. #yeg #ableg [2/9/2010  3:16:44 PM]

The budget deficit for the coming year is projected to be 4.7 billion, almost double what was projected in last year’s budget forecast. [2/9/2010  3:17:08 PM]

Most of the new spending is going to health. 1.7 billion dollars more this year, [2/9/2010  3:17:20 PM]

Edmonton will receive about 100 million dollars less fr province – for Calgary the shortfall could be 150 million. #ableg [2/9/2010  3:17:53 PM]

And then, for whatever reason, she didn’t tweet again until 5:17:01 PM to plug Hugh MacDonald talking about the budget on the Early News.

Her final tweet:

Hey all – Global consolidating twitter…for all your daily news – check out @globaledmonton – take care – it was nice to know ya! [3/31/2010 1:37:41 PM]

It didn’t take long after that was posted for the conversation to get underway. Dozens and dozens of tweets were posted defending Lynda, and asking for more information on the decision. Of course, only a handful of people knew what was really going on, and none of that made it onto Twitter until the letter was posted.

Global Edmonton itself followed up with a tweet a couple of hours later at 3:58 PM:

GM Tim Spelliscy corrects bad scoop. GE is NOT consolidating accounts, not now or ever. Our personalities will continue to Twitter. [3/31/2010 3:58:38 PM]

Shortly afterward, there was a @fakeLyndaSteele account and the conversation continued for a day or two.

Will this affect social media use by the media?

There’s not much to say about the embargo, is there? There were clearly defined rules broken, and as a result Global Edmonton faced consequences. I think you could make a strong case against having embargoes in the first place, but that isn’t going to change what has already happened.

I do think it’s unfortunate that Lynda Steele is no longer on Twitter because of all of this. Not that I thought she was the best or most trustworthy user, but she was a highly visible member of the media experimenting and pushing the boundaries. I hope that this debacle doesn’t turn other members of the media off from exploring further social media use. Instead, I hope this can be used as a case study to learn from.