Saturday, October 8, 2011

Local media is a moving platform

This is so yesterday
It should be obvious by now that local media is changing. There’s more media than ever. All this is having a surprising impact on local communities, according to How people learn about their local community, a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project.

The study found that most Americans use a blend of both new and traditional sources to get information about their local community. The biggest source for local community news and information in the US remains local TV. However, the study found Americans tend to rely on the medium for just a few topics—mainly weather, breaking news, and to a lesser degree, traffic. People rely on other sources for most other local topics. The study also says that younger adults rely on local television less, a fact they say “suggests more vulnerability for the medium in the future.”

There is also bad news for newspapers, which in Canada as well as the US have seem consistent declines in readership. The study found that 69% of American say that if their local newspaper no longer existed, “it would not have a major impact on their ability to keep up with information and news about their community.” Without local newspapers, local news might actually take a nose dive, but that is the perception. The study found that newspapers are a major source of local information. However, most of the topics that people expect to find in a newspaper are also “are ones followed by fewer Americans on a regular basis.”

“In other words, local TV draws a mass audience largely around a few popular subjects; local newspapers attract a smaller cohort of citizens but for a wider range of civically oriented subjects,” the study says.

Not surprisingly, the web comes out as one of the most powerful sources of local information, although the study did not cover certain kinds of websites. Of the American who are online the internet is the “first or second most relied-upon source for 15 of the 16 local topics examined”. The study also found that nearly one in five Americans say they get local information on social networking sites like Facebook at least monthly.

The most surprising finding to me is that nearly half of all respondents said they did not have a favourite local news source. And that is the key to understanding the entire local media system. There is simply more choice and because of that less media loyalty.

All this means something.

First, using advertising or media relations is in fact getting harder. Reaching your stakeholders means using more media sources than ever.

Second, this creates an opportunity for some local non-profits. If stakeholders are seeking local news from a variety of sources, why not create your own news source? In a world where the local media consumption is in chaos non-profits in some cases have more power to influence stakeholders on certain topics than local newspapers, radio and TV stations.

Join me next week when I unveil my "Be Your Own Media" strategy.

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