The PUB - September 2011

Flooding Spikes Traffic/UGC Content for WBNG

In early September, more than 30,000 people were evacuated from the Binghamton, NY area (Broome County) as flooding of "historic proportions" devastated the community. The double deluge of rain from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee resulted in the Susquehanna River watershed's "worst flooding in nearly 40 years".

With officials urging residents to get out immediately, management and staff from local media leader worked around the clock to keep citizens informed and report on this major flooding event. The station used a variety of online methods to get urgent information out, resulting in hitting an all-time page view record on Thursday, September 8th.

WBNG General Manager Greg Catlin said, “It was important to get any and all information out to viewers as soon as possible. We had valuable information that people needed to know, and we provided it on-demand for our viewers on our website and Facebook without waiting for the traditional on-air newscasts or special reports. The thought process was: Get the info, get it first, get it right and get it out…NOW.”

WBNG’s strategy included:

- Staff updating and Facebook constantly – morning, noon and night with emergency information, videos, pictures, stories, closings and more.
- A Flood/Weather Breaking News banner pinned to the top of the homepage for a week. The banner contained links to NY and PA road closings, National Weather Service info, river flood level statistics, plus flood warnings/advisories and the forecast.
- A Closings/Emergency Breaking News banner also pinned to the top of the homepage, under the Flood/Weather banner. The banner remains on the site now - 3 weeks later – and is updated with school/business closings, shelter information, emergency information and more.
- Streamlined sMobile site for iPhone and Android devices.
- Updates and top stories delivered via WBNG's daily E-Newsletter.
- WBNG YouNews® portal where members of the community uploaded photos and videos.

As the evacuation order spread to thousands in surrounding communities within the WBNG coverage area, the station’s role became increasingly vital. WBNG Local Sales/New Media Manager Jay Barton noted, “The website/mobile/social aspect of our newsgathering truly became as important as the on-air component for the thousands of families in shelters or without power; their mobile devices especially gave them access to our information in the only manner available”.

Congratulations to WBNG for strategic execution under difficult and stressful conditions.
Click Here for tips on building your own breaking news strategy well in advance of an emergency (excerpt from the BIM/Magid March 2011 Webinar).

Our thoughts and well-wishes go out to station staff and all Broome County residents as recovery and rebuilding continues.