Scottish Television Digital Additions
STV has been busy refining its strategy, disposing much of its unwanted bulk. But it has also been building a strong digital team, hiring the man behind the successes of both The List and The Scotsman’s websites to spearhead the online attack.
But this is not some Weir’s Way style nostalgia trip. STV is not attempting to recreate the past. ThingumyJig is not in danger of returning to the schedules any time soon. But what underlines the company’s focus on the modern world of media is its increased committment to its digital offering.
And this week it announced it is aggresively expanding its digital team with seven new senior appointments being revealed.
Alistair Brown, pictured right, is the man charged with leading the digital revolution at Scotland’s commercial television station as it continues to be dragged into the 21st Century by its battle hardened directors.
He was appointed by the broadcaster late last year having made his name developing the Scotsman’s website before leaving after six years to work on The List’s online presence.
While at Scotsman.com, his team was responsible for making the site the sixth most prominent source of UK news on Google UK, ahead of The Independent and The Daily Mail. On a world scale, the site became the 26th most represented source globally on Googlenews.com.
“We did that through a relentless focus on being accessible and exposing the content to as wide an audience as possible. We’re building a team here to do the same,” Brown says.
He begins by skimming through a presentation on the plans for the site, highlighting that STV aims to increase its production target from 60 to 70 hours, with dependence on ITV content reduced to 50 percent by 2010. However, by that time he also believes the group’s website can attract up to 200,000 visitors a day and through its local targeting, it will have a three percent share of the classified advertising market.
STV.tv has already developed a video site. And while it will largely offer network ITV programmes such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale and The Jeremy Kyle show, these will be supported by Scottish content such as Taggart, The People’s Lottery Challenge and archived episodes of, for example, High Road.
Brown also reveals that the online platform will eventually offer three types of content, a digital catch up service, a Scottish archive and separate digital channels aimed at the major Scottish cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.
While at The List, Brown assembled a team that helped take the magazine’s online figures from 50,000 unique users to quarter of a million within three months. Following such successes, Brown was in demand. He admits that he has turned down a number of attempts to lure him to spearhead other media company’s digital strategies, but says that the chance to take the helm at STV was too good to turn down.
“These opportunities don’t come around too often,” he admits. “It’s a big job and if we get this right it could be a world class operation. The idea that we really can do anything appealed to me.
“I’ve been involved in the internet for 15 years now and that’s what excited me back then, the possibility of a universal library which anyone can build. Through taking out the middleman, content and quality are being exposed and gaining recognition.”
The new team hired by Brown includes a number of faces from Brown’s previous role at Scotsman.com. Head of product, Kevin Hall, joins from Scotsman Publications. He is joined by Will Springer as news web producer and David Low as senior web developer, both who have also previously worked for The Scotsman.
Meanwhile, Robert Dawson Scott, the launch editor of Scotsman.com, is now web editor for STV.tv, while David Gallagher will be senior web designer.
Elin Svensson joins from Cartoon Network Nordic and will act as web producer and Charles Law will also be a senior web developer.
“I want the right people with the right mindset who are going to spur people on,” explains Brown. “It’s part of their jobs to know what is going on in the industry, it’s part of their jobs to speak up if they think we’re not doing something right.”
Brown continues, explaining that the STV sales team will now be trained to work across both TV and online as a single team.
Likewise, the online platform will be used as a new channel for the company, where programmes that cannot find space on the airwaves will be aired online but driven through televised adverts when relevant.
Special events in Scotland, which people are unable to attend, are also being lined up, having recently streamed the funeral procession of Celtic coach Tommy Burns to nearly 30,000 people. Meanwhile, a recent story of a new ‘sighting’ of Nessie has also seen website hits – from the world over – go through the roof.
“We’re complimentary to the broadcast service. The web is becoming more like TV and TV is becoming more like the web. The most effective media combination is TV and online and we’re in an amazing position to capitalise on that.”
When asked about the focus on local content, something that other Scottish media companies are introducing in order to generate new revenue through classified advertising, Brown doesn’t wish to “get hung up on it,” saying that the issue is “a little overplayed.”
Indeed it is the delivery of content to Scotland that is the most important factor in building the success of the site, claims Brown. “The idea is that the content will be wrapped up into local city sites, but it won’t be constrictive,” he says.
Local content may attract the nation’s audience, but when competing against other, already established On Demand services from the likes of BBC’s iPlayer and Channel Four’s online catch up service, STV.tv has a long way to go. Yet Brown is confident that from quality, will come success: “Hopefully by raising the bar with what we’re able to do we can only benefit Scotland. The BBC is doing phenomenal things as are others, but there’s plenty of space to co-exist. It’s an exciting time.”
Exciting times indeed, but also vital times as STV continues its turnaround.