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Reaching Critical Communities through News and Social Media


Pew Study-Background:

“A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project, in partnership with the Knight Foundation, finds that nearly three-quarters of Americans (72%) report following local news closely “most of the time, whether or not something important is happening.” In contrast, one-quarter (25%) indicate they follow local news closely “only when something important is happening.”

This follow-up report takes a closer look at one unique group of local news consumers – those who follow local news closely “most of the time, whether or not something important is happening” to examine if, and how, they differ from other citizens who are less interested in local news.

Local news enthusiasts’ preference for newspapers as a source of local information is evident (my emphasis added) across all sixteen topics presented. They are more likely than others to prefer newspapers for almost every topic considered with the exception of weather and breaking news. Three in ten (or more) local news enthusiasts prefer newspapers for following crime (42%), local politics (30%), community events (29%), or arts and culture (29%). One-quarter prefers newspapers when seeking information about local schools (26%), taxes (26%), government activity (23%), other local business (23%), and housing issues (22%), and two in 10 primarily use newspapers for following restaurants (20%), job openings (20%), or local zoning issues (20%). Fewer local news enthusiasts use newspapers as their primary source for information about breaking news (15%), social services (15%), weather (11%) or traffic (10%).

My Article:

There is so much in an article below on key consumers of news that I wrote Michelle McLellan at Knight Digital Media and asked if I could reprint the article using Pew data in its entirety. She said yes and it’s offered below.

All of us in business, government, associations and nonprofits struggle with connecting to key people in key communities; the report comes about as close as we are going to get to a road-map.

I previously wrote about the “Quality Web” acknowledging that 20 to 30 percent of requestors who come to your website linger and interact. Web and social strategies understand that a small percentage of people are enthused by what you do. The rest leave quickly. I’ve looked at the data for some very successful websites and all suffer from time spent on site. The vast majority of visitors to any website come and go quickly.

My Opinion:

A similar concept is articulated by Knight and Pew by looking at “Local News Enthusiasts” but with a twist that is more my opinion then their observation. I believe that the true definition of a news enthusiast is a newspaper reader.

Asking people whether or not they pay attention to local news is like asking them if they are stupid. Who’s going to say they don’t pay attention to local news?

So it’s my opinion that it’s newspaper readers (the percentages represented in the third paragraph) that drive most involvement in civic life based on 42 years in government and research on the time spent with media products. Television news (per Pew) are the top sources for sports and weather and breaking news, that’s it.

I believe that it’s important to view “the Quality Web” audience and the 20-30 percent of local news enthusiasts who are newspaper readers as critical audiences that must be the target of most communication efforts. I’m not suggesting that television and radio be excluded in reaching them; I’m just suggesting that those involved in their communities that make or influence decisions should be our goal.

We do not Communicate with Everyone:

We do not communicate with everyone regardless as to effort; we are obligated to extend the invitation but like the proverbial horse to water, we can’t force people to drink.

In every community there are the drinkers or the consumers of news who investigate, embrace and interact. They are often the most vocal supporters or detractors so we might as well get to know who they are and how to reach them.

Please note the observations below as to the use of social media as a strategy for local communication. Younger users are gravitating towards social in increasing numbers “and” the numbers for older users are increasing as well.

There are well defined differences in age and the type of media consumed by the “Quality Web” and “Local News Enthusiasts” and we should be guided accordingly. There is new data on Hispanic use of social media (not covered here) that indicate use greater than the larger population.

The income of local news enthusiasts is lower than I expected. I suspect that the social media crowd involves higher income levels.

Thus we acknowledge that small percentages of news consumers control the conversation and there are different methods to reach them articulated in the article below.

Best, Len.

Local news enthusiasts: Pew research hints at opportunities for ethnic, community media

By Amy Gahran

The vast majority of U.S. adults are really into local news, Pew research shows. How might ethnic and community media outlets capitalize on this as more media goes digital and mobile?

Over a year ago, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 72% of U.S. adults say they follow local news closely most of the time, whether or not some important local news is happening. Today, a new Pew report takes a closer look at this group of “local news enthusiasts.”

According to Pew, local news enthusiasts are more likely to be female, age 65 or older, and retired. “Politically, they tend to be conservative in their outlook (although they do not differ from others in party identification) and they also attend religious services more frequently than others. They do not differ from other adults in terms of household income, but are less likely to be college graduates.”

In terms of ethnicity, the vast majority (69%) of local news enthusiasts are white, Pew found. Black and Hispanic adults each comprise 13% of local news enthusiasts—roughly equivalent to the representation of these ethnic groups among the U.S. population at large.

Interestingly, adults with the lowest annual household income ($30,000 or less) were by far most likely to be keen on local news: 32% describe themselves as local news enthusiasts, compared to 22% in the highest income bracket (over $75,000). People with $50,000-$74,999 annual household income had the lowest representation among local news enthusiasts (12%).

This finding indicates that ethnic and community news and media might be especially likely to gain traction in poorer communities and low-income demographics within communities—a point that might interest local advertisers and sponsors wishing to reach those communities.

Local news enthusiasts don’t all have gray hair. Fully one fourth are age 18-24. However, according to Pew this is the only age group where “other adults” outnumber local news enthusiasts—by almost two to one. This hints that right now is probably a crucial time to engage younger people in local news and information.

Digital media, including mobile and social media, might be particularly valuable in engaging younger people in local news and information. Pew noted: “91% of younger local news followers are internet users, compared with 71% of local news followers age 40 and older, and 82% of adults who do not follow local news closely.”

For contrast, another recent Pew study found that 20% of U.S. adults—mostly those over age 50—still don’t use the internet at all.

Also according to Pew, 73% of younger local news enthusiasts use some kind of social networking service (such as Facebook), compared with 35% of older local news followers and 53% of adults who do not follow local news closely. Twitter is not quite as popular—only 16% of younger local news followers use Twitter, but that’s far more than older local news enthusiasts or other adults. This indicates that using social media to complement your local news and information offerings on the web and in other media might be an especially effective tool for engaging younger community members.

Mobile devices represent a huge opportunity for ethnic and community media. Overall, 84% of local news enthusiasts have a cell phone, and 7% have a tablet computer—slightly less than penetration among all other adults. Also, Pew found the highest penetration of both types of mobile devices is among the youngest local news enthusiasts (under age 40).

This Pew report did not explore how many local news enthusiasts currently use smartphones. However, this year marks the tipping point when smartphones take over as the majority of U.S. handsets in use. Also, most simpler, cheaper “feature phones” are capable of browsing the web and accessing e-mail—and virtually all cell phones can send and receive text messages.

This means that a robust, inclusive mobile strategy (ideally one that includes text messaging alerts or interactivity) can help any local or niche news outlet connect with its community via the devices that most people already carry with them everywhere they go. Also, since social media is one of the most popular things that younger people do on their cell phones, social media can help jumpstart your mobile strategy.

Online media is definitely not the leading source of local news for local news enthusiasts—which may put online-only ethnic or community news and info outlets at a bit of a comparative disadvantage. According to Pew, enthusiasts’ most popular sources of local news are broadcast TV (80%), word of mouth (57%), radio (52%) and print (48%). In contrast, 41% of local news enthusiasts use search engines to find local news, 23% turn to the websites of local newspapers (TV stations sites, 20%), and 12% get their local news from social networking sites.

This points out an opportunity to leverage partnerships for cross-media promotion. For instance, online-only ethnic or community news outlets might provide some articles or other content to run in local newspapers, in exchange for the print outlet providing information about how to find the ethnic/community news site or do other cross-promotion. Similarly, providing simple, short, broadcast-quality audio or video news segments or community updates to local radio or TV stations could help broaden your audience. Many local stations are eager to run such content.

Finally, ethnic and community news sites with a strong mission to improve local communities may be encouraged by this Pew finding: “Slightly more local news enthusiasts than others think they can have a big impact on making their community a better place to live (33% vs. 27%).”



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