The following opinion piece is a guest post and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication. Read more about MediaShift guest posts here.
Ten years ago, a traditional TV set was the primary source of video news for most of us; today, many people watch the same events on their smartphone, or on their connected TV device. Mobility is the new revolution. The Internet is no longer the exclusive domain of computers. Similarly, TV is no longer living in a box.
As we head to NAB in Las Vegas in a few weeks, many local TV news operators will have mobile on their minds, especially as its capabilities increase. As impactful as television on a home TV ever was, it’s even more powerful now that consumers can take it with them. We have more content choices available in more places. If anything, TV stations have increased opportunities to connect with their audiences and grow viewing, as long as they also are able to offer great content and navigate through the potential fragmentation that choice delivers.
News operations have some of the toughest choices to make – among others, how to leverage the mobile platform to engage citizens while satisfying their news brand promise, including having trained journalists to connect viewers and protect their community’s interests.
For local television news, mobile capabilities increase the connection that local news has with viewers. Consumers already have watched some stations and anchors for decades, cultivating trust in the station’s brand as well as trust in the anchors and reporters. A 2015 Pew Research Center study titled “Local News in a Digital Age” showed nearly 90 percent of Americans say they follow local news closely, and when they do, local TV stations are their go-to source.
Aside from consumption, the process of reporting now can be more collaborative. Where once professional journalists gathered and reported the news, now every smartphone owner – that’s 197 million people in the U.S. alone, according to comScore – has the ability to be a reporter. They can record events with highly sophisticated cameras that, in many cases, produce broadcast-quality pictures, and then distribute this content across multiple platforms that translate well for television.
Audiences and Opportunities Don’t End at the DMA’s Border
Aside from enabling involvement in the news, smartphones and tablets allow local stations to serve audiences outside their DMA with live and on-demand newscasts as well as other local content. This is the opposite of audience dilution; it is audience expansion. Some sample scenarios:
- Stations in college towns can use their mobile app to serve parents of students going to school there, as well as alumni who want to keep up with their alma mater. In fact, local stations often are the best or only way for parents and alumni to get in-depth reporting about a school’s academics and sports.
- Stations in communities with a lot of seasonal residents, such as South Florida and Eastern Long Island, can continue to inform those viewers when they’re away. Major events, like hurricanes, may draw national coverage, but that coverage is limited in breadth and depth compared to local stations. National outlets aren’t likely to cover details such as plans to build a road or close a beach.
- Many people enjoy following national elections from the very beginning. Although network correspondents follow presidential candidates, local reporters and citizen journalists provide additional depth and perspective that comes from knowing a specific geographic area or beat.
By making it easy for viewers who are temporarily or permanently outside their DMA to watch newscasts and other local programming, stations have an especially valuable way to attract and retain audiences. That viewership also boosts their bottom line by helping attract and retain advertisers.
Think Global (or National)! Act Local.
As for local TV’s business model, mobile enables national and global brands to reach a targeted audience, particularly the elusive millennial demographic. It also enables these advertisers to reach an audience whose consumers are literally in a position to act immediately on advertising. According to research from Nielsen, millennials, who fall between the ages of 19 and 35, “have the highest levels of trust in online and mobile formats, followed closely by Generation X (age 35-49).” They also show the highest levels of trust in 18 of 19 advertising formats or channels, including TV, newspapers and magazines.
Advertisers that don’t reallocate their advertising budgets and strategies to reflect these preferences and habits risk losing awareness and market share, and the same is true for local TV operators. Mobile expands the opportunity to engage and serve more people in a myriad of ways. When they do, everyone wins. Now please excuse me, time to catch up on the local news again before NAB — and we’ll be watching there too.
Louis Gump is CEO of NewsON, a digital media company focused on local television news. Accomplished in leading digital media services, Gump presided earlier in his career over benchmark-setting mobile businesses for The Weather Company and CNN, before becoming CEO of mobile media and advertising company LSN Mobile. Gump has also served in multiple capacities in industry organizations including the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Online Publishers Association (OPA). He served for more than a decade on the board of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), where he held various leadership positions including Global Chairman and Treasurer, and was recognized with the MMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Based in Atlanta, he remains dedicated to the development of strong businesses for large-scale audiences that also play an integral role in the evolution of digital media worldwide.