It’s no secret that viewers are turning to streaming media for their television entertainment. But the appetite for local news remains strong, as evidenced by the continued success of local TV news programming. State DOTs have learned that there also is an audience for well-produced compelling local news video.
Local television news continues to be Americans’ most popular source for news, according to the annual Pew State of the News Media report. While the overall local TV news audience declined last year, still more than 3.4 million viewers tuned in nightly to watch the evening and late news programs, far outpacing other sources for local news including newspapers and radio.
Most state DOTs use video regularly, but a handful are producing videos that replicate the look and feel of local TV news broadcasts. These news updates typically feature a regular host, or at least a consistent lineup of hosts. And the programs focus on stories about the state DOTs that may not otherwise garner coverage in more traditional media outlets. These state DOTs are reporting their own news in a professional, hosted format that is credible and compelling.
Winter is coming and for state DOTs that means preparing to clear roads and assist motorists. Public information campaigns for years have focused on helping motorists “know before you go” by checking web sites and apps for the latest road condition and weather information. Additionally, officials have urged motorists to winterize their vehicles and to carry emergency supplies.
But sometimes things happen – a sudden storm or natural disaster – that are so unforeseen that the transportation system is tied up and motorists are stranded. What communication strategies are in place for those situations?
One of the most exciting opportunities offered to government agencies by social media was the potential to increase how well they communicated with the general public. After more than 10 years of Facebook and Twitter, and dozens of other social media channels, the question is worth asking: Are we any better at engaging with the public than we were at the turn of the century?
State departments of transportation, and other state and local transportation agencies have long used social media channels to communicate about road conditions, transit disruptions, weather impacts, project meetings and safety messaging. In fact, we celebrate many of their efforts here at Talking Transportation, highlighting the bold, the funny, the thoughtful and the impacting.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll suggest that government agencies are doing a good job of sharing information about the basic elements of operating a transportation system.
One of the 2019 honorees, a public service announcement produced by the Virginia Department of Transportation, used humor to capture drivers’ attention and raise awareness for an annual challenge.
During deer mating season, drivers have a much higher chance of encountering deer in the roadway, especially during dawn and dusk when visibility is lessened.
According to the VDOT award entry, more than 60,000 vehicle crashes involving deer took place last year. VDOT posted the PSA on Facebook, reaching more than 99,800 users. The 30-second video was shared 652 times on Facebook. It’s been viewed more than 24,000 times.
Congratulations to VDOT for using humor to highlight a serious safety issue for drivers.
It may be hard to believe, but one of the hottest media tactics is podcasting. And several transportation departments and trade associations have developed podcasts as a way to reach what experts says is a still growing audience.
According to “The Podcast Consumer 2019,” a report published by Edison Research earlier this year, 22 percent of people age 12 and older listen to podcasts weekly, and nearly a third of people listen to podcasts monthly.
Edison’s report finds that the audience share for podcasting has grown a whopping 122 percent since 2014. And, young people age 12-24 are among the largest consumers of podcasting.
By now, you might have noticed that the The Talking Transportation blog has been silent for a couple of years. I sincerely apologize for being away.
Honestly a few things conspired to sap my enthusiasm for this project. First, my son was nearing the end of his high school years. He was active in school sports, choir and other extracurricular activities. I didn’t want to miss a thing. Second, a close family member was diagnosed with cancer and quite a bit of mental and spiritual energy went into support during the past few years. And, finally, I decided to take my passion for endurance sports to a new level, completing three Ironman races since 2017.
Needless to say, my schedule has been busy.
But, while the blog has been dormant, the transportation industry has continued to pursue transparency and accountability through good communications with the traveling public. There truly is a renaissance underway as transportation leaders increasingly embrace new tools and tactics that refocus outreach on the users of the transportation system.
My goal in the coming weeks and months is to highlight those innovations, and the creative strategies and tactics being put into practice.
I hope to show good work, discuss the challenges associated with that work, and, ultimately, give you a reason to come back to the Talking Transportation blog.
In 2009, less than half of states used Facebook and then most were tepid in their level of engagement. The dominant tool for state DOTs was Twitter, but it was used almost exclusively for sharing roadway traffic conditions and emergency information.