It’s no secret that traditional local news sources are struggling.
The general trend is for large nationwide and even worldwide companies buying local news sources and streamlining operations to save costs to continue to make a profit.
The GI Generation, The Silent Generation, The Baby Boomer Generation and even Generation X grew up with Radio, TV and Print. These channels won’t go away overnight. Those that prefer their news this way will continue subscribing until they die.
But growth isn’t likely as Millennials and Generation Z aren’t committed. The growth is in digital content. Online video, audio and text.
One thing that has changed in the short-term is that local news reporting staffs are drastically being cut. Local news teams still exist on a small scale in order to serve demand for those older generations.
Here are a few examples…
At the Indianapolis Star, three journalists were laid off, including well-known columnist Tim Swarens. At the Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel, University of Tennessee women’s basketball reporter Dan Fleser is out after more than 30 years in sports. The Tennessean cut three positions, including high school sports reporter Michael Murphy. Traci Bauer, executive editor of LoHud (New York), was let go.
Six were laid off at The Record in North Jersey after nine took an early retirement buyout earlier this month.
On and on it continued.
…they’re replacing employees for algorithms, eliminating local and regional talent for more national programming, and generally eliminating the last element that makes radio interesting and important, and able to compete with streaming services and podcasts in the digital age: a local personality to connect to and to serve you music, sports, and news with a local perspective.
“Often you have a publisher responsible for five or six newspapers,” she said. “There’s no way, when you’re removed from that community, that you understand what’s happening on the ground in the same way that you would understand it if you lived in that community.”
Traditional TV continues doing well. Older generations are watching more TV than ever. But from the sounds of things it seems that 2020 local TV is a lot like 2000 local newspaper.
“Different demographics show markedly different attitudes and preferences,” he said.
Indeed, Parks’ data contends Netflix rates higher among women, while premium OTT services such as Starz, Showtime and HBO Now fare better with men.
Nason said the challenge remains with the coveted 18-34-year-old demo, which is the most fickle yet represents future growth of the industry.
“Younger video consumers’ programming and platform preferences are distinct from older segments, which puts traditional pay-TV providers in a difficult position,” he said. “Changing the traditional pay-TV service model could alienate older, high-ARPU (average-revenue-per-user) customers, but not changing could doom future prospects.”
So what does all this mean?
It means the tides are turning. It’s difficult for those entrenched in traditional ways. But for those willing to change, there is incredible opportunity.
Here is one of those opportunities…
Local Business Content Marketing
People still want local content. They want to know what’s going on in their community. They want to have excellent journalists diving into the details about their local happenings. They want to read, hear and watching what’s going on near them because they know that it affects them the most.
But they don’t necessarily want to pay for it. Even a small amount. The advertising model seems preferable. But not too much advertising.
Enter: Local Businesses
Imagine this, the local mechanic hires one of the recently laid off DJs to host a daily podcast. Locally-focused. They do all the same stuff they did in the community. They go to events. They interview local people. They do all kinds of things. Instead of working for a media company, though, they work for the mechanic.
Imagine this, the local plumbing company hires one of the recently laid off journalists from the local newspaper. The journalist does the exact same job. They publish all their material on the company website. Likely in the format of a blog. All free for people to read. They share it on social media. They keep a Twitter account, Instagram account and more. Maybe they even do a YouTube channel and weekly podcast. A full-time person doing all the reporting on the local community. Just not for newspapers. For the local plumbing company.
This is a big change for a lot of parties involved. But it’s going to happen. It will most likely happen as the next generations take over local businesses. These younger generations will quickly see that traditional advertising is expensive in most cases and doesn’t reach their intended audiences.
They’ll look for other ways to reach people in their community. One opportunity is to hire a full-time person to report the local news.
The payoff is the attention brought to the local business. When you are the best source of local news for a community of 100,000, that’s a lot of potential customers for a local business.
Business owners and the journalists can push for this type of experiment.
People want local content as much as ever. But with the traditional channels struggling, they need other ways to get it.
Local business can be the answer.