While local television news broadcasts continue to be Americans’ go-to source for news, changing audience preferences and demographics may force changes on the industry, a new report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation finds.
According to the report, Local TV News and the New Media Landscape, stations must continue experimenting with new approaches to how they present and distribute content or risk obsolescence. The report found that although local news stations have healthy revenues, the audience for local TV news is becoming younger, consuming less news, and increasingly seeking out information online. The report also notes that online is where most of the innovation in local news is happening, with some stations creating digital-only newscasts or emphasizing online storytelling that extends the reach of their reporting and others turning to social media and mobile apps to reach younger audiences.
Based on interviews and survey data from hundreds of local TV news leaders across the country, the five-part analysis found that while so-called linear TV — a local broadcast viewed in real time on a television set — is still an important medium, it is likely to become less so. And as it becomes less common, stations will need to look for new revenue models to help them meet the information needs of their communities. At the same time, the number of newsrooms is likely to shrink, as changes to regulations lead to consolidation among local stations.
"We see TV newsrooms from Phoenix to Knoxville accelerating efforts to reach digital audiences," said Knight Foundation journalism program director Karen Rundlet. "That’s promising, but what about the content? Is it relevant to people’s lives? The industry is wrestling with this question."
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“New Knight Foundation Report: Local TV News Is Thriving, But Needs to Innovate to Remain Relevant.” John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Press Release 04/05/2018.