On a hot July afternoon, AAPG Executive Director Rick Fritz was in front of a camera in the television studio of a Tulsa CBS affiliate wearing an earpiece microphone, answering questions from an interviewer in Washington, D.C., concerning the “drill it or lose it” discussions in Congress.
The questioner speaking into his ear was Susan McGinnis, formerly of the CBS Morning Show, who is now the lead on-air personality for CleanSkies.tv, an internet-only “television station” dedicated to energy issues.
Viewers who logged-on to the no-cost site saw the interview live, much as a viewer watching CNN news.
As technology morphs our computers into television sets, Fritz was part of a quickly evolving “niche-ing” of audiences that share an affinity for various topics.
With the avalanche of information prompted by technology capabilities, studies are showing that we have to sift through the fog to get what we want – when we want it.
With this newly evolved need, content providers are tapping broadband computer/television technology to provide focused information to affinity-bonded audiences. The result is an explosion of new broadband Internet sites over the past 12-18 months.
Some of the recent sites feature polished productions with the look and feel of a network news or talk show format, with “name” personalities hired to provide content and give an aura of objectivity.
of Calgary, which began in 2006 as a half-hour “regular” television program that airs every week on Global Television in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, and on the ABC Network in Houston.
The episodes are available for viewing on the Internet. The producers say the show attracts about 50,000 viewers and focuses on trends and issues rather than breaking news.
TheEnergyNews.com, also in Calgary, was launched in April. It offers breaking news, on-demand broadband television newscasts available 24/7 plus interviews and special reports.
Both Calgary sites are advertising-based business models.
Also funded by advertising dollars is Energypolicytv.com, which adds content daily and covers the spectrum of energy issues and touts that it will “provide full coverage of all Congressional hearings on energy and the environment” – kind of a C-SPAN for energy that also features interviews and in-depth reports.
Energypolicytv.com estimates 30 percent of their page views are from government users, 40 percent from industry and the balance from non-governmental organizations, the press and colleges and universities.
It reported 219,752 page views in March 2008.
CleanSkies.tv news, launched on Earth Day 2008, follows a different business model – it is mainly funded by private funds based on advocacy efforts.
The site is sponsored by the American Clean Skies Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank devoted to advancing the use of natural gas (June 2008 EXPLORER). The foundation and the broadband side is funded by Chesapeake Energy, the largest independent producer of natural gas in the United States. Aubrey McClendon is chairman of Chesapeake Energy and CEO of the American Clean Skies Foundation.
Speaking of niches, even a sedimentary formation is getting its own computer/TV site. But not just any sedimentary rock – it’s the rock star Barnett Shale.
Chesapeake also recently announced it was sponsoring Shale.tv, devoted exclusively to creating content about the Barnett Shale, which has come under criticism and faces regulatory roadblocks due to the urban proximity to much of the production. A well-known Fort Worth television news anchor has been hired to produce daily programming. Both CleanSkies.tv and Shale.tv are supplemented by full-color publications with plans for distribution twice yearly.
CleanSkies.tv and Shale.tv are both operated by Branded News, a subsidiary of Ackerman McQueen, an Oklahoma City-based advertising agency that also operates a broadband site for the Oklahoma Tourism Commission and the National Rifle Association.
The ad agency also was operator of Energy News Live, one of the pioneer broadband television sites that provided the models for content, production and business used by some of the recent sites. ENL was owned by the Williams Companies and was primarily targeted to energy commodities traders. The site folded when the Williams Companies ran into financial difficulties following the Enron collapse.
Chesapeake officials say they do not intend to interfere with the sites’ content.
At CleanSkies.tv, content providers include The Sierra Club, MIT Energy Initiative, Honda USA and Clean Energy Fuels Corporation.
David Willett of the Sierra Club said he is “encouraged by the fact that they don’t care at all what we say – and they know we have no intention of pulling any punches and appear to be fine with that.”
Recent CleakSkies.tv interviews include DPA President Rick Ericksen and GEO-DC adviser Don Juckett at the National Conference of State Legislators held in July in New Orleans
Other interviewees have included various energy-focused authors, lawmakers, T. Boone Pickens, former congressman Newt Gingrich – and Fritz.
“If our news isn’t balanced, no one will watch,” said CleanSkies.tv anchor McGinnis. “Everyone here realizes that.”