July 18, 2006

NBC Launches ‘Nightly News’ Video Blog

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - After more than a year with the pioneering "Daily Nightly" blog, "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams is expanding to a video blog that will give a quick glimpse at the day's top stories by mid-morning.

"The Early Nightly" went live earlier this week on http://www.MSNBC.com as a one- to two-minute video blog recorded by Williams after the 9:30 a.m. ET morning meeting held by members of the "NBC Nightly News" staff.

"It's an electronic curtain raiser for the day's coverage," Williams said from Haifa, Israel, where he was reporting for "NBC Nightly News." He added it will normally be shot at his desk, although for the last two days it's been done from his location in Israel.

"The idea is to be a little more transparent in the way we talk about the process, giving people an early insight into the news, knowing that what we think is critical at 10 o'clock in the morning may be less important at 6," said MSNBC.com deputy editor Randy Stearns.

It's possible that this could also eventually become a part of NBC's deal with online video phenomenon YouTube.com, although there have apparently only been talks but no real movement on putting the "Early Nightly" on YouTube.

NBC's newest move online, which has been in development for months, came after CBS News said it would produce a daily Webcast featuring Katie Couric and other CBS News correspondents. NBC has offered the "Daily Nightly" for more than a year, as well as the full version of "NBC Nightly News" every night on MSNBC.com after it airs on the West Coast.

ABC has produced a daily 15-minute Webcast at 3 p.m. daily since December. ABC's commitment to the Webcast has been unwavering, despite a critical staffing shortage following the injury of then co-anchor Bob Woodruff.

That Webcast has recently drawn as many as 2 million downloads per week, which ABC News executives believe to be incremental and more than likely to be a different audience than for the traditional "World News Tonight."

One of the unexpected outgrowths of ABC's "World News Tonight" Webcast is that it isn't just a dress rehearsal for the broadcast. The Webcast puts to work in elevated capacities some of the more junior people at "World News Tonight," said ABC News senior vp Paul Slavin. And while the story selection and manner of presentation is different, some of the offbeat stories can make the leap from Web to TV.

Slavin said one recent story, about the YouTube video mocking Zinedine Zidane's headbutt, went from the Webcast to the half-hour broadcast.

"They find stories that do make it on the national broadcast," Slavin said. "It informs some of the story selection."

Network-news analyst Andrew Tyndall, who has been calling on the networks to create a comprehensive effort in new media, said NBC's announcement, like all of the network efforts online, have yet to be fully realized.

"The entire process of establishing an identity online is going to be this gradual addition. It's not a grand thing they will launch, they're going to build it brick by brick," Tyndall said.

Not exactly so to ABC's Slavin, who said that news divisions lke ABC and NBC are using their news smarts and their positions in traditional media to help them decide what to do in the new media.

"We're not all just talking about digital. We're in digital with both feet," Slavin said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter