60 Minutes, for the next 60 years

Media “dinosaurs” often get a bad rap, mercilessly ripped for not embracing the conventions of the web. Some no doubt deserve the term for their adhearance to outdated print and broadcast models, failing to grasp that the Internet demands more than just the original version uploaded.

But not every traditional media giant is on a path to extinction. Last Friday my class had the uplifting and enlightening experience of meeting with Michael Radutzky, senior producer for 60 Minutes, and learning how the landmark news program is adapting its content to the new media landscape.

Radutzky has worked on the front lines for many of 60 Minutes’ most powerful pieces during the past decade. He spent more than 3 hours in a cell with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to secure the only television interview McVeigh granted before his execution. He labored for more than a year pouring through documents on the hot-button rape investigation involving Duke Lacrosse players to ensure 60 Minutes’ piece on the controversial issue had no holes.

Hearing the behind-the-scenes info on those stories was fascinating, but looking forward was just as engaging as looking back. The average age of 60 minutes viewers is around (you guessed it) 60, but the program is making strides to cultivate a younger crowd by embracing the web.

Like most media outlets, 60 Minutes has a Facebook page and Twitter account. That’s the easy part. Repackaging content into the smaller, bite-sized bits that thrive on the web is where many journalists stumble. 60 Minutes’ long-term prospects would be grim if they expected people to watch a 15-minute piece on YouTube. So instead they’ve serialized their shows into one-minute segments to hook online viewers.

The show also is injecting some interactivity into their web presence. Viewers can click on the portion of the story they want to learn about to get details rather than just watch one narrative from start to finish. They can see Flip camera footage taken by 60 Minutes reporters working in the field. This both enhances the story by making the reporters characters and gives viewers the sense of being part of the action.

As my class will attest after talking with Radutzky, there’s nothing like hearing the stories behind the story to make a topic instantly gripping. Few media brands are more respected in this regard than 60 Minutes, and it’s gratifying to see that they intend to keep telling stories long after the television becomes obsolete.

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    • steveearley
    • October 6th, 2009

    Another common term for the so-called dinosaurs is legacy media. While this always for some reason sounds pejorative to me, it captures well the brand strength Radutzky was alluding to. No matter what new media clothes 60 Minutes puts on, they’ll bear the 60 Minutes label, and that’s worth a lot.

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