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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

NewsON: delivering local news anywhere, anytime

February 19, 2016 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

A fortuitous result of the ever-proliferating sources for news has been that Americans are consuming more of it than they have in a long time. And the majority of Americans—nine out of ten—follow news about their local area very closely or somewhat closely. However, the proportion of Americans who get news from traditional media platforms—television, radio and print—has been stable or declining in the last few years (though for local news, television still holds its own).

Along with a glut of “news” content we’re also seeing content consumption habits evolve: more and more people consume news on mobile—which is not simply a result of the popularity of mobile devices, but reflective of consumers’ anytime, on-demand expectations. This proliferation of news sources and changing consumption patterns has created issues for content companies and consumers alike. Certainly, it increases competition. But it also causes quality issues, as it can be difficult to find trusted and reliable information, particularly for an audience unlikely to sit down to watch the evening news every night at six.

However, broadcast media veterans are not standing idly by. NewsON—launched by ABC Owned Television Station Group, Cox Media Group, Hearst Television, Media General, Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., and Raycom Media (with Sinclair Broadcast Group joining as a partner)—was founded to provide local news to mobile consumers nationwide. As CEO Louis Gump put it, “In an age where fragmentation is common, we believe creating something that makes it easy for viewers to find trusted news brings great consumer benefit.”

interactiveThe NewsON app provides access to live and on-demand local newscasts and local news clips. The free, ad-supported app features flexible navigation that encourages discovery, offering instant access to broadcast-quality video. It also enables people to search by market via an interactive map and for curated content that links coverage of breaking news events from multiple stations. NewsON is available for Apple iPhone and iPad, Android phone and tablet, and on the Roku platform.

While many of the broadcasters with whom NewsON works have individual apps and make much of their content available digitally, Gump points out that the app has the advantage of offering information from multiple sources within a given local market, which allows consumers to dig in on topics of interest. It also allows people anywhere to find locally-produced video on a given topic, which is likely to offer insights and depth not available from national sources. As examples, Gump sites the New Hampshire Presidential primary and weather events such as the January 2016 blizzard that affected several east coast states, with distinct coverage being offered in local markets.

For the broadcasters that work with NewsON—120 stations in 92 markets, covering 76% of the U.S. population—Gump says NewsON delivers expanded audience reach across all demographics. While Gump would not comment on specific financial terms, he says “the economics at NewsON are weighted heavily in favor of the stations.”

A third benefit, which Gump describes as “kind of extra credit,” is shared learning. “Any TV station group that doesn’t have a strong digital offering and isn’t investing in innovation probably has some big problems,” he said, also pointing out that NewsON provides additional opportunities for experimentation and shared learning among participants. He’s seen confirmation that there’s an increasing desire to time-shift news viewing, but also sees behaviors that debunk the popular notion that people only want to watch short-form video.

NewsON, says Gump, was founded on three main principles: “Do the right thing; serve our customers; and move forward.” As he points out, people are looking for content that meets their needs, on their terms and it is essential to focus on those needs and expectations—with a consistent future-focus. And to that end, he says we can expect to see more partnerships this year, with the goal of increasing local content offerings in existing markets and adding new markets to the mix, as well as significant product updates and evolved advertising capabilities.

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