Local News Must Find New Ways To Engage Viewers

After spending two decades fighting off the encroachment of 24-hour cable news, local stations must now also contend with an explosion of digital news publishers -- including niche blogs and hyper-local podcasts that cover the same issues they do.

When you consider the sheer volume of competition local news faces today, it’s no surprise that per Pew Center Research, ratings for late-night telecasts fell by 22% between 2007 and 2015.

In order to succeed in such a tough marketplace, TV news needs to double down on what it does best: creating meaningful relationships with its local viewing audience. But rather than merely hiring likeable anchors or covering important issues, these networks need to match the real-time engagement their viewers enjoy online.

Today’s media consumers expect a two-way conversation with their favorite broadcasters and publishers, and they’re increasingly demanding content tailored to the preferences they express in this dialogue. If local news doesn’t start giving audiences the engagement they’re accustomed to finding online, those viewers will migrate elsewhere.

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Local news needs to be in tune with its audience like never before.

In recent years, local news outlets have struggled to keep up with a fast-paced, 24-hour news cycle. In order to stay ahead of the curve, broadcasters must forge direct connections with viewers that generate instant feedback on topics of audience concerns.

While many local news stations use Facebook to connect with their audiences, this strategy fails to provide the direct, instantaneous connection they need.

For starters, Facebook content isn’t shown to users in real time, meaning that a network might have to wait several hours before viewers respond to a post asking their preferences for the 10 p.m. news.

Further, networks don’t know if the people they interact with actually watch TV. Finally, using a social network as an intermediary prevents broadcasters from retaining complete control of their audience data.

Instead, local news networks should focus on building apps and second-screen experiences that communicate directly with their audiences in real time -- especially when they are on air.

By interacting with viewers on a one-to-one level, broadcasters can create a stronger branding impact than competing inside a social network.

An interactive mobile experience also allows viewers to feel intimately involved with the program, making them more likely to return in the future. The right live, second-screen experience can even help networks produce additional content later in the show.

For instance, a live poll gauging how viewers feel about the mayor’s job performance could be a segment discussing whether she is likely to win re-election.

Second-screen success doesn’t come overnight, but hard work pays off.

Of course, it’s not enough for networks to merely offer a mobile app -- they need to develop fresh user experiences people will want. There’s no one right way to connect with viewers, but live quizzes always add a little bit of fun to the broadcast.

Allowing audiences to make substantive decisions about what they see on-screen is a great way to sustain attention throughout the broadcast. Just as reality shows like “The Voice” use audience voting to determine who stays in the competition, news outlets can let their viewers decide which funny video they want to see at the end of the broadcast.

Finally, local news networks will need to be persistent to perfect their engagement tactics. Even an excellent app won’t necessarily lead to a big spike in viewership right away. However, broadcasters that develop a captivating second-screen experience will ultimately build stronger relationships with their viewers in the long run.

Source: Media Post Mobile