ABC’s Localish Masters Social Storytelling

ABC Owned Television Stations has won 2019’s Innovator Award, the top honor in TVNewsCheck’s Social Media Excellence Awards, for its Localish collective of highly engaging digital shorts. One secret: an indispensible “wow” moment in every video.

Localish, a digital-first collective of documentary shorts about people engaging in their communities, was launched by ABC Owned Television Stations in the fall of 2018.

The aim was to draw in millennials, tell stories about the good in society and connect people across the country. The videos almost never run longer than four or five minutes, and, across 10 series, they cover everything from food to lifestyle to innovation and beyond.

For its forward-minded ideas, sleek execution and all-around positive impact of Localish, ABC Owned Television Stations has been recognized with the 2019 Innovator Award, the highest distinction among TVNewsCheck’s annual Social Media Excellence Awards.

ABC Owned Television Stations was selected for the award from among 30 eligible nominations, which were identified by data partner Social News Desk’s live database of 12,000 local news Facebook pages. Social News Desk tracked 16 million posts by those pages, identifying those with the highest engagement per post as nominees in each of the awards’ categories.

Within a few clicks, Localish viewers can visit a slime factory in New York City, discover a Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose, Calif., with a near-impossible pho-eating challenge, and get to know a makeup artist in Valparaiso, Ind., who’s fighting ocean pollution through artistic expression.

Localish looks to expose viewers to the most compelling goings on around them, while appealing to a national audience — especially mobile-first viewers, as the stories first appear on the ABC website and dedicated social media platforms before airing on ABC’s television stations.


The returns have been impressive. Localish boasts over 200 million views across social platforms; its Facebook page has more than 350,000 followers, with video views there routinely surpass over a hundred thousand views, and playing host to dozens of commenters.

ABC Owned Television Stations’ Michael Koenigs

“We have over 18 million followers in the owned stations on our social networks,” says executive producer Michael Koenigs. “We coordinate distribution through that network … and that’s allowed us to grow what is essentially a startup within a major company, off these incredibly loyal audiences in different cities.”

Although Localish is news-adjacent, its formula for success diverts from that of tried-and-true broadcast journalism approaches.

“We think second-by-second of what’s going to grab viewers, make people want to share and comment on it, in a way that traditional newscasts aren’t quite as focused on,” Koenigs says. “That’s helped create some of the most viral content within the ABC company. These pieces, even though they’re short-form, [they’ve] made a big impact.”

Koenigs explains that Localish stories “need to have a ‘wow moment,’ something that people react to in the first 10 seconds.” These wow moments could be a great show of emotion on the part of a person in the piece, or a never-before-seen gadget in eye-catching action.

Additionally, in Localish stories “the character is at the center,” Koenigs says, and “their voices drive the narrative.”

“Instead of an anchor talking over the subjects and just giving them a little sound bite here and there, we let the locals tell the story and we simply amplify their voices,” he says.

The characters also reveal information that often surprises viewers. One Localish piece about a husband-wife loofa farming team in Reedly, Calif., showed that the sponges don’t come from under the sea, but aboveground vines.

“It has now over 23 million views and this loofa farmer was getting orders from around the country,” Koenigs says. “It was an example of a seemingly small, rural story that really resonated in major cities. So that’s one of our favorites.”

Localish’s penchant for finding such gems and framing them in engaging, character-centric social narratives has made it an audience favorite itself.

Representatives of ABC Owned Television Stations and the rest of 2019’s Social Media Excellence Award winners will discuss their work in a panel moderated by Social News Desk’s Kim Wilson at NewsTECHForum on Dec. 16 at 4:45 p.m. at the New York Hilton. To register for NewsTECHForum, click here.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story referred to Localish as digital only, when it is actually digital first, airing stories on ABC stations after their appearance on its websites and social channels. This version also includes additional information about the size of Localish’s overall social audience across multiple platforms. 

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