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Ranting with Rick Santelli

Media capitalizing on the Web and the broadcast bounce of the Internet

It was hard to avoid Rick Santelli’s rant on a live broadcast of CNBC “Squawk Box” last Thursday. You probably saw it: reporting from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade Santelli launched a broadside on President Obama’s approach to the housing crisis.

When he asked traders on the floor if they wanted to pay for their neighbor’s failed mortgages, the crowd erupted into a chorus of boos and Santelli’s rant became a story in its own right. Other networks covered it, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a response, and Santelli conducted several follow-up interviews on his position.
A few hundred thousand viewers actually saw the live broadcast; however, CNBC promptly posted the clip on the homepage greatly expanding its reach. According to The New York Times, by Sunday the clip was viewed 1.7 million times, making it the network’s most viewed Web clip to date.

CNBC execs were quoted saying the Web simply extends the shelf life of a segment, but let’s face it: this isn’t Seymour Hersh uncovering the My Lai Massacre or Woodward and Bernstein breaking Watergate. This is editorial optimized for promotion—CNBC took advantage of the added bounce compelling broadcast coverage can have when properly positioned online.

We can debate the merits of media becoming the news, but that aside, there are a few valuable PR lessons to be learned from Rick’s rant and the way CNBC leveraged online video.

  • There’s no gap between mainstream and social media. Type Rick Santelli’s name into the YouTube search bar and you’ll see dozens of clips of the original segment plus other reports of the rant that were viewed by millions. Today, segments that run on the 6:00 a.m. news in Des Moines are archived online immediately—if not on YouTube at the very least on the affiliate’s home page.
  • Meltdowns are magnified. Your mother and second grade teacher may not catch your cameo on the late night news, but they’ll see it the next day online. Rick was preening for the cameras, but if you find yourself in a heated discussion with a broadcast journalist, keep your cool. An unfortunate comment muttered out of frustration can take on a life of its own online for months to come. On a related note, be prepared. Winging a live broadcast appearance is never a good idea. Just ask Joaquin Phoenix.
  • Leverage the links. When a great piece of online coverage appears, make sure you’re maximizing the exposure. Are you embedding links onto your home page, online news room or blogs? If millions watched that little boy freak out after having some teeth removed, just think how your audience will respond to compelling, on-message broadcast coverage. (OK, so they hopefully won’t laugh as much. What kind of father does that to their kid anyway?)

Do you have thoughts about the bounce broadcast coverage receives when it’s archived online? Opinions on journalists becoming the news? Let us know.

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Comments (1)

  • Vincent Fimbrez

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