State of the Media Market: How Hartford Likes its Local News – by Chris Zaccaro

Earlier this year the Pew Research Center released results from a survey that asked nearly 35,000 American adults how they consume and rate their local news. While the survey’s main summary provides an overview of the entire U.S. audience, the folks at Pew also provided a nifty tool that allows you to drill down into your local market. In this article we’ll focus on our Hartford market to see how it compares to the rest of nation, while trying to suggest some useful tips that may help you in your public relations efforts.

SIDETRACK: For those interested, other media markets like New Haven-Milford,
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk and Norwich-New London are available through the tool.

Hartford likes TV

When asked how they get their local news, 47% said they “often” get it from TV stations, which is nearly twice as much as both daily newspapers and radio stations. This aligned closely with the National audience–which also agreed that they “often” use television for local news.

(If you combine the aforementioned 47% of respondents with the group saying they “sometimes” get their news from TV stations–then the number jumps to a whopping 79%)

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Everyone is always on their smartphones, how have digital options not surpassed TV yet?”

Like our news, it depends on how you look at the data.

The research from the Hartford market shows that not one single digital option comes close to surpassing TV in the “often” category. However, if you combine each of the digital options-websites, social media and apps–then we see that online sources are within five percentage points of TV.

This shows that nearly the same amount of folks are getting their local news from online sources, with TV still getting the slight edge … for now.


Newspapers & FM/AM radio in the digital era

Daily newspapers are known to have been the most impacted news source since the dawn of the digital era. Here in the Hartford market, 16% of respondents say they prefer to get their news via newspapers and 22% say they never utilize them.

Of course let’s keep in mind that basically every daily newspaper has a well-established website and social media platforms where their content gets posted. Just because consumers are saying they don’t read their news in print, doesn’t mean they’re not logging online to see what they’re reporting.

(Paying for it is a different matter. We’ll get into that later … )

As for radio, it just surpassed daily newspapers in the “often/sometimes” category, with 61% of Hartford respondents saying they “often” or “sometimes” get their news from the radio – seven percentage points higher than those who said the same about newspapers (54%).


Show local news the money!

With newsrooms consistently shrinking and journalists pitching subscriptions on Twitter, it seemed to be common knowledge that local outlets have been feeling the financial pinch over the last couple of years. Perhaps I’m just living in the media/public relations bubble because–not so, apparently!

Some 71% of the American adult population believes that local news outlets are doing quite well financially. This, along with the plethora of free news content available, could be why only 15% of the Hartford market has paid for local news in the past year (85% have not).


How can public relations practitioners put these findings into action? Here are some takeaway lessons:

• Earning media placement on TV is a big win. First, because we know people are watching and second, because your placement can be amplified and live longer on websites, social media and apps, which–when pulled together–are almost as popular as television with the Hartford audience.

• People may not prefer to get their news via print anymore (only 16% currently do), but that doesn’t mean your story won’t be seen. It would be extremely odd in 2019 if a daily newspaper didn’t have a website or social media platforms. Your story will most likely appear on their website, which is where 18% of Hartford respondents prefer to get their local news, and could possibly run several times on their social platforms, which is where 17% of locals prefer to get their news.

• If you’re looking for your story to be posted online, it may be better to aim for the beginning of the month. Clearly folks are not very interested in paying for news. Only 15% of the Hartford market has done so in the past year. If website visitors are only permitted five or ten free articles a month before they hit a paywall, a good strategy may be to try and ensure your story appears at the beginning of the month, before folks use up their allotment of free views.

• There may be media providers that are preferred over others, but any positive media placement–whether on TV, in print, online or on the radio–is still a win because here in Hartford 79% of adults follow local news very or somewhat closely, 70% believe our outlets report news accurately and 56% believe they include people like them in their stories.

Statistics from this article were provided by the Pew Research Center’s: For Local News, Americans Embrace Digital but Still Want Strong Community Connection (March 26, 2019)

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