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Classy Rob Lowe does not have KVOA

Satellite provider DirecTV has embarked on an ad campaign featuring two versions of actor Rob Lowe. There's classy, stylish Rob Lowe—he's the one with DirecTV—and awkward, social misfit, loser Rob Lowe. He's the one with cable.

Loser Rob Lowe is also the one who might have access to local NBC affiliate KVOA TV 4.

In what has become something of a New Year's tradition for television stations, as of deadline KVOA was the latest local outlet in a contract dispute with a satellite or cable provider once its contract with that carrier ran out at year's end. And like every other television station that has gone through this process, its marketing strategy is to rally loyal listeners in an effort to create enough outcry to get the big, bad, corporate entity to buckle.

At the top of KVOA's website is a banner focusing on the dispute. From there, in bright yellow capital letters KVOA proclaims, "TELL THEM TO RETURN KVOA OR YOU'LL DROP DIRECTV."

KVOA hopes its online efforts can motivate them to force DirecTV into more favorable negotiations.

"From major sports rights and talent fees paid to popular actors and news personalities to the costs associated with providing extensive local news, weather and sports plus highly-rated syndicated programming—broadcasters face greater costs than ever before," KVOA says in defending its position in its statement on kvoa.com. "It's important to note that the vast majority of programming fees we receive from cable and satellite providers go directly toward programming costs levied by our network and studio partners that produce the content viewers value most. The fees also provide resources to continue to deliver the local news, weather and sports coverage viewers count on. Without these fees, such public service content could be jeopardized."

So in short, according to KVOA: little guy is getting screwed by the big bully. But there are clearly other factors at work here as well. For instance, to read this KVOA novella, one must go to kvoa.com. Assuming viewers have the Internet access necessary to get to kvoa.com, they probably have access to nbc.com, which broadcasts all the network programming KVOA plays anyway. Furthermore, if you want to get up to speed on the "resources to continue to deliver the local news, weather and sports coverage viewers count on," those viewers can get that on kvoa.com since the station is basically giving away its local news content online as it is.

KVOA, naturally, had hoped to get a bump in complaints over the weekend when it broadcast an NFL playoff game, and hopes NBC's first-run syndicated programming will help its cause as well, but while they'll probably reach some agreement at some point, the reality is this is not an exception, but one of the new norms for local stations trying to find ways to maintain budgets as advertising declines in light of changes in viewership habits and upgrades in technology.

You don't need overly paranoid Rob Lowe to tell you that.

Am I reading Tucson.com, or bleacher report?

It's an annual rite of passage for some Tucsonans, the moment where long-time Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen unveils his 100 most influential sports figures in and around Tucson.

During the luddite era of print, folks who physically read a newspaper could thumb through Hansen's annual list and conveniently count down from 100-1, then perhaps complain because they thought someone Hansen ranked 18th should really be closer to 12th.

Then last year I noticed the Daily Star incorporated a different approach to Hansen's top 100. They made you click 100 times to get through the list. I figured maybe that would just be a one-time thing. The Star wouldn't possibly continue that annoying practice this year, would it?

So I was excited when Hansen's list went online Dec. 27 at Tucson.com, and then not so excited that to even get to the story I had to navigate the irritation of a scrolling Fry's ad which covered the front page and shifted the rest of the text lower, or that a Vantage West banner ad at the bottom of the page managed to interfere with additional story text.

Those sorts of cumbersome irritations have become part and parcel of the Star's website. But all that fun paled in comparison to the paper's decision to again list Hansen's top 100 one number at a time. Not a compromise, say, in groups of 10, where the paper could then lie to advertisers about the number of page views and get 10 clicks per one actual story. Instead, the Star figured why not go the distance by trying to get 100 clicks per one story.

This year I made it to No. 97: Ironwood Ridge volleyball coach Bill Lang. If I really wanted to read this story, it would be more convenient to walk to the Himmel Park Library, read it in ink form, then walk back. And I'd get more exercise in the process.

"The list" approach to writing has become a website staple, precisely because it serves two purposes. For whatever reason, folks like to argue about what should be placed where in a list, and instead of having readers click once for a single scroll, hopefully they'll click multiple times to make it to the end. More clicks looks better for page count purposes, which in turn can be used to try to lure advertisers.

Bleacher Report is one of many sites notorious for this approach, but I'm not sure even they generally have the gall to try to force readers to click 100 times for one list-based story. Then again, they don't seem to have ads for Fry's that dominate the entire front page, so why wouldn't the Star try to set a new standard for consistent online annoyance? On that list, they'd be No. 1 with a bullet.

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