This may come as a surprise to you if you’re under 30, but local TV isn’t dead. Not even close. Despite calls that millennials are killing everything from casual dining chains to diamonds, we have yet to aim our torpedos at local broadcast news.
For marketers and those of us working in digital content, the concept of linear broadcast TV sounds outdated and inconvenient. With all the information in the world available at your fingertips at any given moment, why would anyone choose to wait for hours to get access to the information they need?
But there are tons of Americans for whom local TV is still an incredibly important news source. While local TV audiences have decreased over the past decade, the trend isn’t as dramatic as one would expect given all the new media channels emerging in the same time frame. In fact, until 2017 local news was the single most common source for news in America, outperforming the entire Internet. Today, 41% of American adults still prefer to consume their news content through a good old fashioned TV screen, more than any other channel.
What gives? How hasn’t digital media pulverized local broadcast TV by this point? How is revenue for traditional local media up despite competition from seemingly bigger and better players?
Local broadcast news is a great case study of how successful content marketing works. In an industry crowded with shiny new competitors, viewers keep coming back despite the seemingly inconvenient aspects of the product. They are proof that if you build content with integrity, you can build brand loyalty, even in a highly competitive environment.
There’s a lot to learn from traditional local media about building brand and customer loyalty. Here are a few lessons we can take from the content creators in local TV:
1. Good content is personalized
Local TV news works because it is often, by nature, hyper-personalized by geography. Whether you need information about an accident on the highway or a local school board race, sometimes the fastest and easiest way to get it is to turn on the TV. The subjects viewers indicate are most important to their daily lives are the local news staples we all think about when we see a news program promo: weather, local crime, and traffic. Local preferences, regional expertise, even accents and dialects are all things that local TV news producers use to craft segments and make them feel specifically written for their target audience.
Don’t expect to create bland general content and have it build brand loyalty. It takes more effort, but personalizing content to your highest value targets goes a long way. 88% of digital marketers say they’ve seen a positive ROI from personalizing their content and campaigns. Remember who your audience is and create what they want to hear.
Lesson: When developing a content marketing strategy, remember what matters to your audience. Going too broad, too specific, or just completely off target and outside of their realm of interest ensures that your audience will write you off.
2. Good content provides unique value
An overwhelming majority of people (over 80%) think it’s important that their primary news source understands their community history and is engaged in local happenings. Viewers who perceive their local news as connected to their area consistently give their local news stations higher ratings than those who don’t.
By being a part of the community themselves, local news channels and journalists have unique insight into their viewers’ lives in a way that no overarching national brand can replicate. This gives local news channels a niche to fill and allows them to bring a unique value and point of view that frankly, most other media sources can’t touch.
Lesson: Find your content niche and double down. Make sure what you have to say is unique and not just a rehash. Presenting differentiated, valuable content makes your brand indispensable to content consumers.
3. Good content builds trust
Personalized valuable content ultimately leads to brand loyalty and trust, and local TV news is a great example of that in action. Almost half of Americans are heavily suspicious of news on social media, and only 27% of Americans trust national news over their local channels. But 76% of Americans cite local TV news as a highly trusted source of news, the most of any media channel.
What is brand loyalty if not trust in your company? Trust goes a long way in making up for some of your shortfalls. Trust is why people continue to tune into local news despite the plethora of seemingly more convenient options.
Lesson: The goal of content marketing is to build trust with your audience. Make sure everything you put out there keeps this in mind.
4. Good content isn’t always cheap or easy to produce
In the US, the local broadcast industry is worth over $17.4 billion. Over 27,000 employees work tirelessly in local newsrooms to produce on average 6 hours of content and coverage every weekday. Valuable content clearly doesn’t just come out of thin air, there are teams of professionals researching, writing, shooting, and editing everything that goes on air. There’s no skimping here.
Does that mean you can’t make do with a smaller team or a minimal budget? Of course not! But don’t underestimate the effort and don’t be afraid to hire help when you need it. Consumers are increasingly suspicious of and sensitive to content that’s poorly written or designed.
Lesson: Make sure your content is the best that it can be. Get the right people and tools in place to produce quality content.
Is traditional broadcast TV the most “glamorous” of media spaces? No. But they are a solid example of how creating personalized, valuable content can earn your brand a lot of clout. Local broadcasters have found their niche, serve it well, and are holding their own despite obvious hardships.
For local TV news to thrive in the coming years, there will definitely need to be tweaks. That being said, local newsrooms seem up for the challenge. In an effort to create a new era of loyal viewers, local TV is beginning to experiment with bringing their content to younger audiences. 80% of news directors say they tried a new digital strategy last year, and 72% indicated that social media was a new channel they plan to invest in.
While most people who get their news from local TV stations still tune in via a television screen, that won’t always be the case. But local newsrooms have the advantages of solid content strategy, unique perspective, and community loyalty that will keep them running. If they can crack the content distribution code, I could easily see a new renaissance for local news media as they expand their audience to a new era of loyal viewers.