7/30/2006

How CBS is making the news more relevant to viewers As a voracious consumer of news (I read several newspapers a day, dozens of news magazines a month, hundreds of blogs and several TV news shows) I have often found myself wondering how the evening news producers select the feature stories. This is followed by a second thought that goes something ike, "I could so so much better." Well, CBS has apparently decided I was right. Letting me (you can join in too) decide what will get air play is the latest in a trend toward becoming more relevant. Weeks ago, they dumped dour Dan and hided cutie Katie. But this latest move is so far beyond the command and control tradition of CBS, I can only assume the head producer fell and bumped his head. When he came to, the thought crossed his mind that he wasn't the only one with an opinion. The CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer is letting viewers choose which of three stories it will air in an upcoming segment, called Assignment America. Viewers are shown three short clips and then asked to go to the CBS web site to vote on which assignment to send Steve Hartman to cover. The most recent offers Monk e-business (about Monks who apparently have a thriving online business selling refillable printer cartridges); Road Warriors (about a professional baseball team with no stadium, no fans and no hometown) and a peek inside a twin convention (presumably about people who look alike and dress alike and who get their jollies being around others who do the same). I wasn't able to figure out on the web site how to vote for my choice: Twin Monks Who Play Baseball, But Refill Printer Cartridges On the Side. Anyway, CBS will announce in two weeks where Steve will be going to cover the story viewers most said they wanted to see. (Recently, his assignment was to take his father to an amusement park to ride roller coasters.) CBS has taken our love of on-demand, customized products so seriously, it even now lets you build your own newscast. Simply go to the web site, click on the videos produced for airing, and determine the order in which you'd like to see/hear the stories. This "massclusivity" - exclusivity for the masses - permeates many industries now, from movies to books to TV shows. Predictability is less certain because each venue how offers multiple choices on how we'll experience the product. And that, after all, is the very essence of relevance: consuming what matters most to us. What are you doing to ensure your services and/or products offer the kind of relevance that comes with being offered choices? Remember, relevance takes many forms. Think beyond the tangible. Perhaps you can best achieve relevance through customized customer service, including the ways your customers can place orders. Or maybe relevance comes in availability of post-sale tech support. The point isn't that consumers must always get multiple choices or else you're irrelevant. Rather, it's that consumers must FEEL their input influences your offerings.

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