Study suggests TV stations have to improve Web sites or risk losing attractive consumers who prefer online news over newscasts.
The Internet may never replace the television as the entertainment medium of choice in the home, but it may be surpassing local TV news as the primary news source in the homes of some of America’s most attractive consumers.
A new study by the Washington D.C.-based Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 40% of home broadband users fall into this elite category—better educated, wealthier and more sophisticated in their use of media and technology.
Like others, the elite seek news in a variety of places. But here’s the point: 71% go online for news on a typical day, while only 59% tune into their local TV news.
Another disturbing aspect of the report for local broadcasters is that young people are turning away from TV news, too. Users under age 36 are particularly less likely to get news from local TV or newspapers than older users.
“For younger home high-speed Internet users, certain news gathering habits, namely reading a local daily newspaper and watching local and national TV news, are not being formed,” wrote John Horrigan, associate director for research for the Pew Internet & American Life Project in a summary of the report’s findings.
Local TV news is by no means dead. It still ranks tops(54%)among broadband users in general, topping radio(47%)and national TV news (46%).
Overall, local TV news sites ranked fourth among where broadband users go online for news at 33%, below the local daily newspaper sites (36%), portal sites like Yahoo (44%) and national TV news sites like CNN.com (52%).
News sites that feature rich content like video are more attractive than those that don’t and local broadcasters, of course, have an advantage here. Gathering video is what they do.
And major breaking news drives traffic. People tend to go online to get more information on major events after learning about them on television, according to Horrigan.
The study’s so-called “high powered” or elite group seems to be the one broadcasters should watch because they represent the cutting edge and the others eventually follow their lead. They view more online sources (three per day) than average users (2.2 per day) and are likely to be people others rely on when gathering information or opinions.
The depth of information these elite broadband users seek online also differs from that of typical broadband users. Seventy-nine percent of this group has retrieved news about politics and public affairs, 28% higher than other broadband users. Seventy-three percent have gotten news about science, technology or entertainment online, a better than 25 point margin over other broadband users.
The moral of this story for stations: If you want to remain your market’s news leader, you had better start paying as much attention to your Web site as you do the evening newscast.
GETTING NEWS ON THE TYPICAL DAY
Elite Users vs. All Broadband Users
Percent who say they got news from a specific source “yesterday.”
Elite All broadband
Local TV 59% 54%
National TV 52% 46%
Radio 53% 47%
Local Paper 43% 35%
Internet 71% 24%
National Paper 21% 14%
Average No. of Sources 3.0 2.2
Source: Pew Internet Project December 2005 survey