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How Cowles leverages BLOX CMS to efficiently run multiple TV stations with a lean, distributed team

  • 3 min to read
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"We were looking for a content management system that could allow us to easily and quickly share across all of our platforms," said Rob Curry, Digital Executive Producer for Cowles. "Much of the content we produce at one station is of interest to the others. By sharing, not only do we have more content, but we are more efficient."

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Cowles' broadcast division includes four sites—KHQ, NBC Right Now, Montana Right Now, and KULR—covering Washington, Montana, and portions of Idaho and Wyoming. Spokane-based KHQ is the largest of the sites, with a DMA rank of 70.

"We generally only have one web producer for each station," Curry said. "In some dayparts (late evening, early morning) we can be a bit short-staffed. However, one producer can cover an entire region or even all four sites because of the ease of cross-posting content."

Curry's team can quickly share articles, videos, galleries and more, between the four sites using BLOX CMS. "It's very easy to manage multiple sites. BLOX CMS allows us to publish content across all sites within moments."

Effortless cross-station content sharing

As the flagship station in Washington's second-largest city, KHQ has the staff and resources to handle many of the production needs for its regional sibling sites.

"We treat Spokane like a hub for broadcast and digital," Curry said. "So we can efficiently disseminate the information."

"BLOX CMS helps because it's super simple to get content from one site to another," said Mariah Valles, KHQ Digital Producer. "It's really important when you're working with multiple websites at once. This allows me to publish a story on the website, push it out to our app and get it on social media all from one place."

Whether it's reporting on a cold case in Missoula or an avalanche at Silver Mountain, dividing the task lets the team cover more. "When big stories happen, one producer makes sure each site has video, one writes the article, and one is assigned to do push alerts," Curry said. "Each producer was in a different building and in some cases a different state."

Breaking news can't wait for five o'clock

"The model of holding news for the evening broadcast, and then pushing to digital is outdated," Curry said. "If there's breaking news or we have a good piece of video, we try to get it on the website as fast as we can."

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When a lead or press release comes in, a reporter will write five or six sentences of web copy. Often they will also record a quick video using their cell phone. The brief article will then be posted on the website with updates made frequently. Additional video, photos, and information will be included, until finally it makes it to the TV news broadcast.

"Another element of an effective digital-first approach is getting reporters to post their own web copy," Curry said. "Because BLOX CMS is so easy to use, reporters are not intimidated, they learn it very quickly and can independently create content."

"Last May, Union Gospel Missions Motors was vandalized. With the press release, we had the early details on our site as soon as possible," Curry said. "Then our reporter did a nice job of putting video to what everyone already knew. But he also teased ahead to five o'clock where we showed his interview with the owners. More people tuned in to watch his show that night having seen the early video on their phones or the website."

Digital first and the pandemic

Cowles Covid coverage

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Curry's team created "Containing the Coronavirus," branding across the whole company. The coverage would start on the website and then be pushed to their app and daily on-air newscasts.

"People are really hungry for coronavirus content," Curry said. "Last year I was just hoping content would make it through the algorithm on social media. But with the pandemic, people are now coming directly to our site every day for updates."

With reporters and producers working remotely or from home, the team needed to get content up quickly. Thanks to BLOX CMS, reporters and producers can create, edit, and update from wherever they are.

"We're often moving at high speed and BLOX CMS is nice and fast," Curry said. "We know it's gonna work and the content's going to be there the way we want it to look. It's a nice reliable product that makes sense."

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