Getting to the right audience is tougher than ever despite strong interest in local news

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According to a new Pew Research Center report, “Across all levels of engagements and in all three cities, local TV is the top source of local news.”

The old adage that all news is local remains just as true today as it did before the advent of the internet and mobile devices.

According to a recently released Pew Research Center study, interest in local news remains strong. And, the study shows that traditional media outlets – especially local television – remain important outlets for local news.

The study looked at news media habits in three communities – Denver; Sioux City, Iowa; and, Macon, Georgia. The researchers used a local news media audit, a survey of local residents and an analysis of social media (Twitter and Facebook posts in those areas). 

The lengthy and informative report provides a glimpse into people’s interest in local news, and it suggests that it is too soon to write obituaries for legacy news media – especially in the smaller and more rural communities. For instance, the report found that 36 percent of Macon residents and 40 percent of Sioux City residents regularly get their news from the daily newspaper. Only 23 percent of Denver residents say they regularly get their local news from a daily newspaper, but Denver also boasted the most diverse collection of local news providers – 143 – that included a variety of online content.

For the transportation communicator, this report suggests that our communities are still engaged, but often are harder to reach.

It is not enough to simply draft a news release and email it to the traditional media outlets anymore. But we cannot simply post an announcement on our Facebook pages and ignore those traditional media either.

As with everything else we do in the world of communications, targeting our key audiences – especially at the local, granular level – requires planning and foresight. More than ever before we need to understand not only the broader mass media, but also the more targeted tools to reach down to the neighborhood levels.

Just a decade ago, we might have worked with the local utility companies to include printed messages in the monthly water or electric bills. Today, in my neighborhood, the local email listserv is the best way to tap into the nattering neighborly communication network. Don’t forget local Parent-Teacher Associations or bicycling clubs or hospital mailing lists.

The Pew study is a reminder of a couple of truisms. First, one technology never completely replaces another. So even with the advent of social media, legacy media are not going away – at least not completely. And, people are going to communicate across media in ways that make sense to their specific interests. So the better we understand the audiences we are trying to reach, the more effective we can be in getting them the information they want and need.

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Author: Lloyd Brown

I am the director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I enjoy running marathons and triathlons, playing guitar and spending time with family. My professional interest is in how social media and new technology shapes the communication relationship between government and the general public. I have a Master’s degree in Communications and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Washington State University.

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