Newspapers have been dealing with severe audience erosion, thanks to the internet, for years to devastating effect. Local television news hasn’t been hit nearly so hard, but a study of trends suggests trouble now and more ahead.
A Rapid TV News look at a recent study from Pew Research Center points out that local television news audience erosion is for real, but somewhat modest – it notes that 54% of Americans were regular watchers of the medium in 2006, and that result has slipped below the halfway point to 48%. This is of course a less-than-desirable trend, but it still leaves local television as the news medium of choice.
However, the percentage of those aged 18-29 started lower and has dropped more severely, falling from 42% to 28% over the same time period.
The blame falls on instant access to news thanks to the internet on the one hand, and the widespread use of cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices – younger Americans are simply getting news and information wherever they happen to be, and have no need to make an appointment with their in-home television set for whenever the local newscast is scheduled.
One survey result was this: Asked where they saw news a day earlier, 33% of the under-30 crowd said a social networking site, compared to 34% who said social TV.
The most gruesome numbers still belong to newspapers, however – and the topline number is even more gruesome the closer you look at it. Only 13% said they saw news from a newspaper on the previous day – and the reason that result is extra gruesome is that it includes reading a newspaper website.
RBR-TVBR observation: We believe people in general pay more attention to news as they age – we remember when we were younger. We were aware of what was going on, and had an interest in the news, but when 11PM rolled around, we also found we had an interest in that M*A*S*H rerun that was being shown on the local independent channel.
As we got older, the more importance we placed on newspapers, television and radio news. We don’t think we are particularly unique in that regard, so for that reason, we think there is a natural tendency to citizens to join the ranks of newspaper readers and local TV news watchers as they move forward through life.
But the mobile/internet generation is going to pose a special challenge that local media didn’t have to face with people of our generation. When we were finally ready to consume news on a regular basis, traditional sources were the only options. Broadcasters need to work long and hard to find a way to reel in this current 20-29 year-olds. We believe that means the production of compelling content and a compelling and well-publicized web presence.
We will admit, however, that we do not have an easy answer. If we did, you can bet we’d be cashing in on it rather than writing about the need to find it!