Satellite media tours are gaining popularity as VNRs come under increased scrutiny and clients respond to a more competitive media environment.
Michael Friedman, EVP and partner at DWJ-TV, notes that where he was once doing 10 VNRs for every SMT, he is now seeing the opposite. The shift is even more striking because SMTs command a smaller audience, typically airing only during the morning drive-time hours.
"I see it most keenly in the private sector," Friedman says, adding that the controversy around government VNRs has had an effect across industries.
Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions, is also doing more SMTs, among them one for the 150th Mardi Gras in New Orleans, part of an overall tourism push for the area.
Simon attributes the increase in SMTs, which he estimates at 50% over the same period last year, to companies wanting more "instant gratification" from their investment. Clients perceive that they have greater message control, and producers similarly like their greater interactivity, he says.
"With greater competition, it's probably harder than ever to get coverage," Simon notes. But he warns, "SMTs aren't an either/or strategy; you want to incorporate them into an overall campaign."
Susan Macaluso, associate VP of corporate communications at Medialink, cites Pew Research Center data showing that morning news programs have retained a stable viewership, while other news networks have declined.
But she notes that timeliness is key. She points to a rabbi who conducted an SMT discussing the death of Pope John Paul II; Habitat for Humanity similarly opted to use an SMT to broadcast from a building site.
Medialink has seen SMTs remain stable over the past three years, but Michelle Wallace, SVP of operations, notes that interest has grown in how to extend SMTs' life cycles.
She cites dramatic increases in integrated tours and repurposing audio and video for the Internet. "They're leveraging pre-existing video," she says. "It's really an incremental cost, considering the video is already shot."
SMTs, particularly when aired live, give clients more control of the message
Video and audio from an SMT can be repurposed for the Web to reach a greater number of people
Shooting on location - or doing an on-air demo - makes the video more exciting to producers