Local content to generate more traffic amid globalization

By Blaise Hope

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The media industry tends to scrutinize the variable metrics of the audience in the discussion of traffic. During the pandemic, media companies found an unprecedented opportunity to reassess the problem, the content itself.

When private cable and satellite television networks were introduced in the mid-’80s, broadcast television found itself competing with the pay-TVs. They found a way to cooperate with broadcasters focused on producing local content while the pay-TV companies focused on network expansion and acquisition of content rights. By enriching their content with local content, the pay-TVs managed to attract more paying customers to their networks.

The balance created by the dependency between global content owners and local networks was further disrupted as the former could access their local audience without involving the local distribution network. Take the direct-to-consumer approach from Netflix, Disney+, Apple+, and Paramount+, for example.

The disruptions in the modern era where people turn to social media and its so-called citizen journalism have created an abundance of news streams. When the internet started to scale itself to the top, the term “hyperlocal news” was born. It is generally with media targeting certain small proximity, like the suburbs. 

The local-hyperlocal news trend and the shift of global players approach that removes intermediaries from their business forced the media industry to go back to its root: to be primarily concerned with the political and social issues within their specific communities just like the good old days of early newspapers.

Local market, local taste

Local content will likely be the next object of the near-future media gold rush as global media giants start to deploy various forms of partnerships and acquisitions, such is the case with the Discovery and MediaWorks’ TV3 in New Zealand. 

Overwhelmed by the mainstream media and their volumes, the audience often seeks solace by finding the things that are relevant for them. Local items like town hall meetings, sporting events, and nearby accidents are proven to attract more interest from the average audience due to the relatively closer impact of the knowledge on their daily lives. 

Local news has deep social and cultural dimensions to them, especially related to placemaking and community building. It prompts local residents to be more aware of the regional crises and what they can do if they are willing to participate. However, this is not limited to local news and current domestic affairs, but also local reality-based content, documentary, drama, or comedy content that is difficult to be sold in the global market.

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“We are adding resources to our newsroom to increase the number of local stories you see in our newscasts, on our website, and in our apps,” said Megan Roberts, news director of Chattanooga’s WRCB Local 3 News. She added that the move was made after several feedbacks from the viewers asking for more local content.

Local news broadcasts are considered to be highly significant in the markets where news events happen as it serves as a key information resource about what was happening directly in that market. For example, Washington DC saw local ratings were 43% higher during the January 6 unrest compared with the day before. This number is notably higher than the 30% increase that national broadcast news experienced.

Looking for relevancy

In the digital era, news needs to be timely and relevant.

There are small elements that can help companies not only bind the community together but also grow their local audience further, including the younger viewers. 

Some media companies would acquire or build their local content office from scratch to chase relevancy. By empowering local people, their local content will gain even more audience, and trust as the audience is able to say that they know the credentials of the people working for the media company.

The principal or national brands would then act as aggregators, shedding spotlights on the local stories on the national or even global stage. This was the case when Nexstar Media Group initiated NewsNation.

“We’re utilizing 5,400 journalists from across the United States — that’s over 100 news producing markets,” said Blake Russell, executive vice president of station operations and content development for Nexstar in an interview with NewscastStudio.

Partnerships, collaborations, or acquisitions with local content producers or distributors allow broadcasters to have a local presence and ensure their relevance in targeted communities.

Furthermore, by earning a better understanding of the cultural and community aspects of the local markets, these companies are able to engage users in a more customized interaction tailored to local tendencies and favorites.

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