Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Did You Ask for News and Get Promotion?

Be Careful

What You Wish For…

Ah, spring. Political flyers that I do not want are in the mail box and my email inbox. And since it is also TV spring sweeps, some are finding that an Austin TV station is apparently repurposing news and weather alert email lists for promotional messages--You know, the kind that should end up in your Outlook Junk Mail folder. How did viewers get on the email list? Well, they asked to be put on the list, but they are getting more they asked for.

KXAN TV (NBC) in Austin invites viewers to sign up for news and weather email alerts or updates. Most all local media also offer email news and possibly weather alerts. Only KXAN, however, is also using that news and weather alert email list to promote programming. This sweeps period seems to be the first time the station’s promotions department got its hands on the news and weather alert email list.

I don’t subscribe to any broadcast station alerts. A NewsMcNabb reader brought the promotional messages to my attention. The first one arrived on the very first day of sweeps, last Thursday:

From: KXAN News Team [] Sent: Thursday, April 23, 2009 10:11 AMTo: Subject: Programming Announcements

Dear User Name,

Stressed out over the economy? Layoffs, or fear of them, negatively affecting your relationships, your children, your health?

Join us today at noon on and chat live for an hour with Austin life coach Melissa Schenker, Austin Diocese counselor Lupe Garcia and KXAN Austin News anchor Leslie Rhode. Ask them questions, share your stories, get some tips and advice on how to keep your head in these difficult times. They’ll be there for you on our Recession to Recovery page at

Then, watch KXAN Austin News at 10 p.m. for our special report by Leslie Rhode on economic stress and how to cope with it.

Thank you for tuning in and joining us online at!

KXAN903 W. MLK Blvd.Austin,TX 78701

The viewer attempted to get the practice stopped. The alerts were fine, not the spam. Michael Fabac, KXAN news director, forwarded the complaint to his web team:

“Our apologies for the error. I will forward your message … [to] our new media department so you can be unsubscribed from the programming list.

“Thanks for watching!”

Michael Fabac s News Director

But the promos continued.

Today, the station sent out two, both having to do with ongoing coverage of the “Swine” Flu:

“Come to at 2:30 p.m. to watch a live press conference from the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, where a 22-month-old from Mexico died on Monday.

“Also at 5:30 p.m., join us on for a live chat with local doctors and experts on the swine flu.

“Thank you for watching KXAN Austin News and joining us at while we bring you continuous coverage of this outbreak.

“Stay safe, and be healthy.”

Certainly and quite possibly, this coverage transcends promotion and could be classified as news. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get anyone to make the distinction for me.

Television stations are in hot competition. So, stations might use all media available to promote their products, but as I said earlier, KXAN is the only station using its email list for promotional purposes.

How do I know? I asked them. One station’s new media managing editor said the idea came up once and was quickly shot down, because it might make viewers angry. News 8 News Director Kevin Benz said similarly, “We try to avoid ticking people off.”

KXAN TV has not replied to the NewsMcNabb inquiry.

A bit of irony: Just as I finished the copyright note below, my cell phone provider sent me a text message, encouraging me to send pictures with Mother’s Day texts. Geez.

© Jim McNabb, 2009


Anonymous said...

All this does is cause users to move to other sources for news, which only furthers the drop in viewers for their station. A foolish move and one that will cost them viewers.

Anonymous said...

extactly why I dont regularly watch local news....that the stupid blown out of proportion swine flu BS...THE CANCELLED FRIGGIN LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL IN FORT WORTH!!! I'm gonna hurt somebody!