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.

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

A news sense is really a sense of what is important, what is vital, what has color and life – what people are interested in. That’s journalism.

Arthur Burton Rascoe, American Journalist

I’m sitting in a food court in downtown Atlanta on break from the Social Media Today Social Shake-Up Conference. It’s a collection of multimedia thought leaders, brand managers, CEOs, social media junkies and digital dorks. (I say with great affection!)

I’m here because like many, I’m going through a transition. I have been a television journalist for years working in local newsrooms across the country and most recently CNN. I love and believe in journalism. I love being an advocate for those who don’t have a voice or platform. I love telling stories.

Social media is a game changer for the Fourth Estate. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, You Tube, Vine and whatever comes next the people have a platform. They have a voice…and they control it. When news breaks, citizen journalists are posting video and eyewitness accounts before news managers can even deploy their crews. Information is a currency no longer reserved for the traditional media.The need for traditional broadcast news is waning. Ratings are down and just this week Gallup released information showing mistrust is at an all-time low when it comes to mass media.

“Journalism” is trying to figure out its next evolution. So am I. The questions I often consider:

  • Is there really less interest in news or is lack of interest format-related?
  • Is there still a thirst for trusted, credible news organizations?
  • Are we telling the wrong stories?

That brings us to this week’s academic exercise on surveys.  I created a survey to examine the habits of news consumers, specifically local news consumers: Survey of Local News Consumer Habits

Using a snowball sample, my objectives are to:

  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

I am hoping to gain insight into whether it is the content or the medium that is affecting low news viewership on television. I started with a screening question to keep data focused solely on those who do consume local news. I included open-ended questions and comment fields in certain locations to learn where people are getting their news from. I also wanted to allow space for direct commentary on the value or lack of value in local television news. Analysis of my findings will be posted next week. To be continued…

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