July 26, 2017

On Tuesday, News 12 anchor Doug Geed did something that months ago would have been out of the ordinary for his Long Island-based TV station: He tossed the broadcast to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for on-the-spot reporting.

Onscreen came Jill Wagner, a journalist at the financial news startup Cheddar. She began reciting a list of the day’s top business and technology headlines: Michael Kors buys shoemaker Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion. Jeep sales are way down. A Wisconsin tech company is letting its employees implant rice-sized microchips in their hands.

The package gave viewers of News 12 just a nibble of Cheddar, a millennial-focused financial news organization that broadcasts on over-the-top and on-demand services like Sling, Amazon, Vimeo and Twitter, and now, local TV. The company is forging partnerships with stations as part of a new push to get its breezy blend of business and technology coverage in front of TV audiences across the United States.

The new initiative, called Cheddar Local, offers TV stations one- to two-minute market updates each day on a taped and live basis, said Jon Steinberg, the founder and CEO of Cheddar. It’s a win-win for both parties, Steinberg said: Cheddar gets exposure to large audiences in local news markets, and local TV stations get high-end business and tech coverage from the heart of the New York Stock Exchange.

“Local news is the ratings leader in markets across the country,” he said. “Everyone loves their local news, but if you’re in Des Moines, Iowa you can’t provide the same stock market coverage that you could if you were headquartered in the heart of the financial center of the world.”

To start, Cheddar is launching its local program with two partners: Tegna, which will air the market updates on ABC Sacramento, and News 12, which will run updates on its six stations in the New York Tri State area. Essentially, Steinberg said, Cheddar is becoming a news and technology business bureau for local TV stations, which he regards as “a public good.”

Cheddar Local will be made available to TV stations on different pricing tiers, Steinberg said. There’s a free tier, which allows TV stations to broadcast one free TV hit per day. There’s also a paid tier, which will allow for multiple market updates, that will cost “a few hundred dollars” per hit.

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Another upside to the service, Steinberg said, is the “live throw,” which will allow for some back-and-forth between Cheddar hosts at the New York Stock Exchange and TV hosts in their various studios. The brief exchange, which will include a few questions, will let the journalists impart some local context into national stories.

For Tegna, Cheddar Local offers a new way to connect with its younger audiences, said Steve Kidera, a spokesperson for the company.

“As we continue to reinvent local journalism in the digital age, we are excited to work with innovative, digitally-focused companies, like Cheddar, to reach new and younger audiences across platforms,” Ed Busby, senior vice president of strategy for TEGNA, said in a statement. “Cheddar Local will help KXTV deliver relevant content to the Sacramento community.”

The partnership with News 12 was helped along by Altice USA, which is both an investor in Cheddar and the parent company of News 12, said Pat Dolan, president of News 12 Network. He described Cheddar’s updates, which News 12 is running twice-daily, as “well-produced” and “professional.” The New York Tri State area is particularly affluent, which makes financial and tech news a good fit.

“We liked what we saw,” Dolan said. “We saw a millennial-driven, high-energy news service focused on business and tech news. It offers us a way to enhance our business coverage and drive audience — particularly for viewers who are interested in the business and tech news sector.”

This isn’t the first strategic partnership for Cheddar, which recently raised an additional $19 million from investors including Amazon, AT&T and NYSE. Earlier this year, Cheddar teamed up with Condé Nast to produce “VF Hive on Cheddar,” a live weekly half-hour series feature reporters and editors from Vanity Fair covering the big events in business, politics, and technology. Cheddar has also launched a partnership with Strayer University to create a set of virtual courses about digital entrepreneurship.

In addition to driving brand awareness, and providing revenue the partnerships are intended as a counterweight to the continued dominance of Google and Facebook, which have a stranglehold on the digital advertising market, Steinberg said.

“I think the importance of partnering with news organizations is in the public interest…and I think this is a unique way to circumvent the power of Facebook and Google,” Steinberg said.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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