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Local TV news looks to digital for innovation

April 11, 2018 | By Rande Price, Research Director—DCN @Randeloo

When one thinks of local news, the immediate distribution points that come to mind are local TV, local newspapers and local radio. According to the Knight Foundation’s new research, Local TV News and the New Media Landscape, Local TV news is the most profitable one. Local newspapers are on shaky ground, continually losing circulation (and advertising dollars) and local radio is holding its own. However, it is significant to note that local TV news stations are looking to digital for innovative ways to tell their stories and to attract new audiences.

The Knight Foundation cites findings from the Radio Television Digital News Association Annual Survey that 65% of station innovations are focused on digital platforms. The other innovative areas include technical (17%), alternative approaches to newscast presentations (14%) and new organizational structures (4%). Clearly, local TV news is building a digital presence.

Online Innovation

An important strategy for local TV news is the digital first approach. Many local stations are broadcasting their content, especially bigger projects, first on digital platforms before on air. This type of strategy shifts focus on audiences and where they want to access their content.

Further, more than three-quarters (78%) of TV news directors report putting new and important content online now. Their strategies include:

  • Moving newscasts online: More newscasts available online or conducting live events online.
  • Web-only content: Local TV news stations are also creating content specifically designed for web and mobile platforms.
  • Leveraging digital to improve storytelling: Stations are experimenting with user generated content for new POVs and storytelling opportunities.
  • Developing new properties for younger audiences: Stations are also developing digital assets to target younger adult,

Social Media Strategy

In terms of attracting a younger audience, 55% of local TV news stations are emphasizing social media. Fifteen percent are pushing specific social platforms or features (e.g. Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and others). Additional efforts also include content creation on digital social platforms targeted toward millennials.

Knight’s social media analyses indicates digital strategies are paying off for many stations in terms of reach and audience engagement. Further, in a content analysis of more than 1,100 posts (on human interests, entertainment, politics, public policy, etc.) for four stations with the highest engagement levels shows increases when social media components are added.

Efforts on social media are paying off and ratings are highest on local news stations when there’s activity on social media. This suggests that the content on social media is additive and not necessarily replacing the local station as an access point of information. Still, local news stations need to find a balance in using social media to find audiences and deliver news.

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