RESULTS: A Survey: Does local news matter? Is it all about the Medium?

The following results are based on an academic exercise for my Masters Degree in Social Media. We were asked to create a survey on any topic of interest. The survey was pushed out via Facebook to 282 friends and via Twitter to 3600+ followers. I sent the survey out randomly at different times over a 5 day period. It is a small sample taken in an uncontrolled (snowball method) environment.

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When I saw only 64 respondents to my Local News Survey from a week ago, I feared the number indicated low-interest in local news. While that statement may be true, it was not true of the majority who took my survey.

SO WHAT WAS MY GOAL?

I had four main objectives for my survey:

  1. Gauge interest in local news
  2. Understand how people are consuming news and what their sources are
  3. Analyze social media’s role in local news
  4. Understand why people think local news is important or irrelevant

SOME KEY INFORMATION AND FINDINGS

I began the survey with a question designed to weed out those who do not consider themselves local news consumers.

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Figure One

As you can see in Figure One, 61 people responded and 3 people skipped this question. Forty-two people consider themselves local news consumers while 19 did not. So a majority of just under 69% of those who responded have an interest and consume local news. Looking at the demographics of those who continued the survey, the majority skewed  towards women and the majority age range was 35 to 44. (Click image for larger view)

 

In looking at the demographics, it is good to keep in mind that they align with my age and gender. Given that I pushed this survey out to my Facebook friends and Twitter followers, that would make sense.

I was particularly interested in how people are consuming news. I know when I no longer was working full-time in a television broadcast newsroom, the way I consumed news shifted greatly. I saw it as a professional responsibility to watch our on-air product in addition to the other ways I chose to consume news. I found once I was no longer obligated to watching on-air, I primarily consumed news via phone, tablet and/or computer. My survey affirms that others behave in the same way, with a majority consuming news through multiple platforms (Figure Two).

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Figure Two

 

Given my focus on how people socially consume news I wanted to look at which major platforms were being used most (Figure Three). To no surprise, Facebook is the dominant source of news consumption on a social platform. I was surprised to see Vine positioned ahead of Banjo, however, Banjo is an app that isn’t as well-known to those working outside the news industry. Banjo is an app that pushes out news stories at a local level. You can choose to receive stories specific to your location (or any location) or keep it very broad. It is growing in popularity but it doesn’t have the name recognition of Vine. While some newsrooms are using Vine, it is an app that hasn’t been fully utilized widespread by journalists.

As an aside in hindsight, I should have included an open-ended option where respondents could add other social platforms, they use.

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Figure Three

 BEYOND THE NUMBERS

In this survey, I also included open-ended answer options. I wanted to know what networks people watched, what local sites they get their news from and what favorites they had. Part of my thought process in asking was also to see if they could simply remember and name the brand they gravitated to. You can access this information in the full survey link below.

I expected candor in an anonymous survey, but I was still impressed with the comments people included. Beyond candor, I expected more apathy and was pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful comments to open-ended questions. Below is a good sample of some responses to the “Why is local news important?” and “Why is local news irrelevant?” sections:

  • “Because you can get the same information online without as much sensationalism.”
  • “Depending on the source, it is often skewed by bias of sponsors, or the who’s who involved, you can get “motivated yellow journalism”. Small towns like ours often simply copy and paste from other local outlets or national outlets.”
  • “Too much news and too few resources sometimes lead to doing “easy” stories instead of important stories that impact everyone; especially if the staff is young and inexperienced.”
  • “Local TV news s irrelevant because I get the information faster via internet (Facebook, Twitter). The broadcast is more of a recap of what I already know.”
  • “We count on local news organizations to cover issues that are relevant to our community; they should be the watchdogs of public government, serve the viewers, and make the community better.”
  • “It provides immediate news of interest and relevance to the community. They are the stories that most directly impact me and my neighborhood.
  • Beyond the national headlines that affect America, it’s important to have smaller units (local networks, local papers) that highlight stories/issues that affect smaller communities, perhaps more directly…”

If you are interested in a little deeper dive, below is a PDF of the full survey.

Full Results of News Survey

CONCLUSIONS:

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that many Facebook friends and Twitter followers are journalists both in television and digital. Additionally, many followers on Twitter work in social media or some sort of digital environment. To that end, the audience for this survey definitely skews towards news consumers and doesn’t necessarily represent the general viewing/consuming public.

While it is a scary time to be a journalist, I also think it is one of the GREATEST times to be a journalist. We are more connected than we have ever been. That allows us to tell even more and possibly better stories. All we have to do is pay attention.

julie-laird-quote-we-are-still-fine-tuning-the-programming-but-we-are

14 thoughts on “RESULTS: A Survey: Does local news matter? Is it all about the Medium?

  1. Hi Kelly,

    I was looking forward to reading your results for the survey on local news relevancy. What you found was what I hoped would be the case. It would be disappointing to think that we were so disinterested in our community that local news doesn’t matter.

    I like how you used open ended questions in your survey and that your respondents had such detailed and well thought out answers. It really helps reinforce and sum up the general feeling of importance the local news has to them.

    Excellent job with both your survey and your results summary!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Stephanie. I was pleasantly surprised as well as I mentioned. The idealist in me was also warmed by the interest in community. All it does is reinforce that local news needs to do it better. We as journalists need to be where our audience is and understand that we can do it with integrity.
      I appreciate you commenting on my blog. Thank you.

      Like

  2. Wow, this is beautifully put together. You clearly know how to package a story! And it looks like you got all four of your big questions answered through a mix of quantitative and qualitative information, which is great. As with all of these surveys, bias is really hard to avoid on some key criteria. You mention the preponderance of journalists in your circle of friends, but I can’t help but wonder if the number of TV-only news gatherers wouldn’t be at least a little higher if you hadn’t conducted the survey via social media.

    I was a little surprised to see YouTube listed so high as a news source. I routinely hear about something visually eye-catching in the news – usually a sports highlight or something similarly GIF-able – and do a Google search to see if anybody has uploaded the video. And I have noticed how rarely that video comes from YouTube. Embeds within traditional news sources are the far more likely source, I find. But maybe YouTube is catching up on this front.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny you write that about You Tube Eric. I almost wrote a similar sentiment in my blog. When I was researching stories for air I used You Tube as a news gathering tool but as a consumer, I rarely use it– and I am a news junkie! So…agreed.
      Thank you for your comments. Your social media distribution point is a good one.

      Like

  3. Hi Kelly,

    As usual, a beautifully put together piece, which was well thought-out and again, visually appealing. This is my first blog, which I realize possesses different capabilities when it comes to transferring imagery. It was a sight to behold to see me attempting to infuse my SurveyMonkey graphs into my blog post! Mission NOT accomplished! But I know that I will be able to emulate you one day.

    I know that you were initially wary of local news popularity, but somehow my gut told me it had not waned as much as you’d expect. Only because 15 years ago when I lived in South Florida, in very different times, obviously, local news was extremely popular. Back then TV would have been the primary source, as well as radio. Fast-forward 15 years later here in Trinidad & Tobago, where local news is tremendously popular, and oddly enough, still via traditional media, despite the fact that we’re very tech savvy. There’s almost a backlog of advertisers trying to get onto news time-slot airtime, more-so than prime-time! That said, I think Facebook would perform strongly here as well, as TV and press all possess Facebook fanpages with constant news feeds. Same goes for Twitter, but Facebook is far more popular than Twitter here.

    Not surprised, but thrilled to see that your results show a mix of sources for local news, with a heavy emphasis on digital sources. A sign of the times that we live in, and yet another reason why we are all taking this program!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments Ryan. I love that you are so into news. I do think things are structured differently where you are versus here so I am glad you were right!
      Re: Images in blogs. It takes time. I had never done a blog on my own until I entered this program. You have to post weekly in Intro to Multimedia Communications which I took last semester so that gave me a hands on crash course. You will get there! I still have soooooo much to learn but I make a point to try to do something new each week and just experiment.

      Like

  4. I really like the way you presented your data. It’s easier to start a conversation by knowing what you were looking for and how you analyzed that data.
    I know you added a skip logic question, and this is great and makes sense. However, I do think that putting the skip logic question at the beginning might be risky because the level of attention of the first two questions are still not there and people can get confused. I did your survey, and I quickly read your question which I probably did not understand fully at the time. When I answered no, I actually found myself at the end of the survey.
    I tried a different approach. I tried to test my surveyed people during all surveys, so if they did not pay attention or if they were not careful in answering one question at least I could pick up the discrepancies down the line. I did pose questions similarly but worded them differently to test consistency.
    I do treat people that answer my surveys as a real lead; a lead is extremely valuable. If someone wants to participate in a survey we cannot risk losing him right away. I could have paid more attention, but I do represent an average person so if I did miss understand your question or maybe I did not interpret the question correctly, there is a chance others did as well. My approach was to build interest slowly in the process so people would begin to pay more attention rather than excluding them right away.
    In substance I would have loved to do your survey but I was not able to catch the answers quickly enough.
    I think your topic is really interesting, too, and very compelling to our Master Degree. I have no doubt that people, mainly journalists, were looking at the web and other sources to collect information. As you say for journalists like yourself it is an amazing time and you can really leverage this technology to make information finally free from the influence of a particular Elite or Political force and make it as objective as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for commenting Antonio.
    The great thing about surveys is you can build them in so many ways. I included the skip logic question because I didn’t want to operate from the assumption that someone was only paying half-attention 🙂
    I think if I was conducting this survey for a working newsroom it would have been more extensive and had more build up.
    Your points are good ones for me to consider however so thank you. It’s always good to have critical feedback.

    I saw your gfx on your blog– same as mine! 🙂

    Like

  6. Hello Kelly,

    This is my first time on your website and I really like the effort you put forth with your attractive layout. I appreciate your topic because I do appreciate local news and feel it should have a prominent place within each of our communities.

    After seeing the results of your survey, as well as my own on social media, and our other classmates—the one figure that really sticks out is the number of females who responded to the surveys. We’re not talking just a little edge over the numbers, we see a domination of women which leads me to believe that more women are much more active on social media. It would be very interesting to find out why and over the next several weeks I’m going to make it a personal challenge to ask the men I come in contact with for some qualitative cause and effects for the low numbers and to see if they are just anti-survey.

    In your survey I wasn’t surprised at the majority of responders consuming news through multiple platforms. Most of the time when I watch local news is it is on in the background when I’m getting ready for work. The other platforms don’t really afford me this great option. I enjoyed your take on Banjo and Vine usage, two sources I don’t generally use. I always appreciate the great info share we are able to share between our incredibly professionally and socially diverse classmates.

    Really super job Kelly, very professionally done! Brava!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comments Sylvia. I just went and checked your survey out as well. Intereting observation on women.
      I wonder if women use social media more (and respond to surveys more) because there is still a push to be validated. To have a voice and opinion. I know we have come a long way but in the several industries women still aren’t heard. Maybe social media gives them that?
      I have even seen sexist comments play out in discussion with classmates here in this program.
      Interesting observation. I’ll noodle on that some.

      Like

  7. As always, a really thoughtful, informative, and enjoyable read, Kelly! There was plenty here that surprised me, but the first of it was the extreme difference in the 5% who still get news on-air and the 95% who grab what they need online! Now, as you said, this might be a little higher due to the composition of the audience from which you acquired your sample, but still- it can’t be THAT far off. It’s still very clear that consumers’ news consumption habits and channels have shifted. We already knew that the shift had occurred, but your survey made it that much more real (and a bit shocking) with these numbers!

    The next interesting and surprising aspect of your work to me personally was the fact that Vine is considered a go-to for news (for anyone). Whereas the number who reported utilizing this channel for local news purposes was small, it still caught my attention. The general demographics of the platform users, (mainly that they are typically in their teens and early twenties), as well as the prevalence of comedy content and the format of a vine being only six seconds, would indicate to me that it’s not a great place to distribute news content. However, now that I think about it, a vine serve as an eye-catching headline and visual- concise and engaging… So I could see how, if done correctly, news channels could absolutely effectively target and reach a younger audience if that was a goal for them.

    Finally, I don’t have anything clever to add regarding the comments to the open-ended questions that you shared, but I did find it to be a nice touch. You definitely have some thoughtful and news-savvy consumers in your following and in this survey sample.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Vine thing puzzled me some. I think it’s an interesting promotional tool to get people to a newscast when used creatively. The best Vines though are so wrapped in art and beauty and technique.
      One organization that does Vine well is USA Today. It’s really interesting. They basically create a montage of the days headlines. So to your point–you get a quick digestable rundown but no depth. It’s creative though.

      Liked by 1 person

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