NEW YORK — NBC's Brian Williams is the quintessential news anchor for the digital age — plugged in, always on and savvy about the latest apps and gadgets. But don't ask him to Tweet.
"I have 160,000 Twitter followers having never said one word," he says.
Williams is anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, TV's highest-rated newscast, and the Rock Center news magazine, which airs Fridays. With smartphone and tablet apps for both shows and a big social-media presence, Williams is charged with bringing the TV news audience into the digital age.
We sat down with him on set at Rockefeller Center to talk about his experience at the center of the dramatic changes in broadcast news.
THE MODERN ANCHOR
"I have a Web-based job," he says, "night-and-day different" from the days of anchors Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Tom Brokaw.
"It used to be, you said your piece, probably knocked down a few Manhattans with your staff, and then talked to the masses the next day. If somebody wrote you a letter, there was a two-to-three-day delay time. Now the conversation starts when I say good evening. Our Twitter deck is being monitored in the control room. It is a constant conversation."
Williams says he doesn't do personal Twitter or Facebook pages because he hasn't found the time to curate them, and skips reading social-media mentions of himself because "you'd have no time for anything else, you'd have no self esteem, and you'd never leave the house."
Brian Williams on Social Media | Talking Your Tech
"I'm a night owl, cruising various websites, looking for stories for the next day … for anything we missed. I love getting challenged by the staff. I hate being the only one who brings a find to the afternoon story meeting.
"I have a list of favorites — Buzz Feed, Daily Mail and Gawker. There is a reason Daily Mail is the No. 1 news site in the world. It's 90% candy-based, and then once in awhile they'll do a deep dive of gorgeous photos from the Smithsonian that will take your breath away. Buzz Feed is a fascinating website. They have really locked into a formula. Who isn't going to click on '20 pets being jerks,' or the baby otter being bottle fed at the San Diego Zoo? ... I start my day with the big aggregators. New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico. I'm a non-fiction guy living in a non-fiction world."
IS TV NEWS STILL RELEVANT?
"Our viewership is up over this time last year. Maybe this brand name that all of us grew up watching, maybe people are coming home because there is so much going on. People know they'll get a 30-minute synopsis. My broadcast is the oldest we do in the building. We just turned 65, and I'd argue it's every bit as vital today. We give you familiarity and quality, a sorting mechanism, a coffee filter to shake everything through."
"I'm a hopeless nerd. I have a great app, theBravest (a New York City fire department scanner feed). I can listen to real-time scanner traffic. I love SkyView (free), which is basically an app that explains the constellations and tracks the International Space Station and the Hubble Telescope. I get push alerts from a great site (and app) called Satellite Flybys ($2.99) when the International Space Station is going to fly by my ZIP code. If it's a summer night, there's nothing cooler than seeing this thing, the brightest dot in the sky, watch it fly over your head. It's something you don't see every day."
Brian Williams on Websites & Apps | Talking Your Tech
BLACKBERRY AND IPHONE
"The twin-device life is something you'll find so many people in TV have. So many companies support the BlackBerry, and many of us need the BlackBerry keyboard for the constant e-mailing. So many of us, if we had one thing to really hate on the iPhone it's the virtual keyboard, but we love everything else about this device."
A MacBook Pro and a "steam-powered" Dell both at home and in the newsroom, wireless Beats by Dr. Dre headphones ("a game changer") and Bose in-ear headphones. He has an iPad, but "is not wild" about it. "I'm still an analog paper book reader."
Brian Williams on Devices | Talking Your Tech
Uses the Shazam app to find new music "constantly" for his iPhone, which has 8,000 songs. Recent downloads includes songs by MS MR and Nikki & Rich. All-time favorite: Bruce Springsteen.
"When you grow up on the Jersey Shore, and a kid who grew up 8 miles from you and reminds you of you ends up on the cover of Time magazine. It's the most validating thing ever. Wherever you go for the rest of your life, if you're in Red Square and you tell someone where you're from, they'll say, 'Bruce Springsteen.' And that's what happens when you're from New Jersey. So it gave all of our lives, great definition. I've been to way more Bruce concerts than I care to admit."
WILL WE WATCH NEWS ON TV IN 10 YEARS?
"I keep reminding everybody, TVs are pretty great and they keep getting greater. Give me a NASCAR race on a Sunday afternoon on a 55-inch screen and I'm happy. The bigger the screen, the better the movie. I don't want to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark on my iPhone. Yes, we want to be truly portable, but TV is pretty great."
Brian Williams - 10 Years from Now | Talking Your Tech