Study: Local news outlets should lean into their strengths

Local media needs to change, but it isn't dying, according to journalists surveyed by Ogilvy.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

NEW YORK: Local news should stay local if it’s going to survive, according to Ogilvy’s 2018 Global Media Influence survey.

As global outlets increasingly drive circulation, Jennifer Risi, Ogilvy’s chief communications officer and MD of media influence, said a salient question came to the fore: Will local media continue to exist?

"[Local media outlets] have a unique vantage point and they don’t need to replicate and write on the national stories," Risi said. "They actually need to take a local flair. People want to hear news off the street and read the local hometown paper."

Mirroring trends across the media industry, local journalism has struggled to transform itself to meet changing consumer behaviors as advertising and subscription revenues dry up.

This is the second half of Ogilvy’s annual survey, now in its fifth year; the first half was released during Cannes.

The survey was conducted in April 2018 through Ogilvy’s media influence team in 22 offices, asking 363 reporters, editors, and producers across North America, APAC, and EMEA to participate in a 10-question survey.

Of the North American respondents, 42% said local media is more important than ever, with an equal amount saying the model needs to change. A mere 15.1% of EMEA respondents said local media is more important than ever, while 63% say change is necessary. However, 70% of APAC journalists say it needs to change, and 21.7% say it’s more important than ever.

Very few of the respondents as a whole, however, thought local journalism is "dying." Only 8.7% of North American respondents agreed with the statement, compared to 16% of EMEA, and 4.4% of APAC.

Risi cites the Gannett Company as a company that can leverage scale to modernize each of its portfolio newspapers. Gannett’s flagship product, the USA Today Network, is comprised of more than 100 local news outlets.

Risi said she believes the consolidation Gannett represents is beneficial.

"We have to look at what’s happening to the news agenda: digitization, barriers coming down because of social, anybody can get whatever they want at any time, and anyone can be a journalist," she said. "News is everywhere and it’s more accessible."

Journalists in North America are less prepared to accept this trend. An overwhelming 76% said they thought mergers and consolidation in media would hurt the industry.

However, 67% of respondents in EMEA and 74% of APAC respondents believe consolidation will be positive for the industry. Globally, 55% agree.

Television was cited as the most successful traditional media platform to adapt in a digital world by 31.4% of global respondents.

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