20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
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2050
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4
2040
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2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
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2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

“Broadcasters have an opportunity to gain some of the local market share being ceded by newspaper companies who failed to confront their own crisis before it was too late.”

The 2020 elections will bring a record-setting windfall to local TV stations (thanks, Mike Bloomberg!).

But that cash will mask a looming crisis for broadcasters. The rate of people dropping cable TV, and with it in many cases their access to local TV stations, doubled last year. The remaining audience is aging. At some point, the core business will be reduced to auto dealer ads on live NFL broadcasts — and even that will be at risk at some point.

The most progressive broadcasting outlets will recognize this moment in time and use some of that election cash to go digital first this year. Local TV still rates in surveys as the most trusted source of news. And broadcasters have an opportunity to gain some of the local market share being ceded by newspaper companies who failed to confront their own crisis before it was too late.

On a parallel track, public radio and TV stations face similar headwinds with their traditional broadcast audiences. A number of them received a windfall of millions from the FCC’s recent broadcast spectrum auction, and with it the capacity to reinvent themselves.

Public and commercial broadcasters alike could look to how NPR affiliate KPCC in Los Angeles went digital first with its revival of LAist, and how it adapted some of the things public media is best at doing for a new audience.

Developing a digital audience beyond traditional broadcast channels and formats means more text-based reporting (pivot away from video?), more attention to authentic audience engagement, and maybe even commercial TV and radio digital subscription and membership programs.

And while there’s a strong tradition of investigative reporting by broadcasters, that transition will require breaking exclusive news on more routine matters. That means doing the local beat reporting that’s been lost as newspapers have cut back, not just doing an audio or video version of stories that other outlets have reported in text.

Matt DeRienzo is a media industry consultant who most recently as vice president of news and digital content at Hearst’s Connecticut newspapers.

The 2020 elections will bring a record-setting windfall to local TV stations (thanks, Mike Bloomberg!).

But that cash will mask a looming crisis for broadcasters. The rate of people dropping cable TV, and with it in many cases their access to local TV stations, doubled last year. The remaining audience is aging. At some point, the core business will be reduced to auto dealer ads on live NFL broadcasts — and even that will be at risk at some point.

The most progressive broadcasting outlets will recognize this moment in time and use some of that election cash to go digital first this year. Local TV still rates in surveys as the most trusted source of news. And broadcasters have an opportunity to gain some of the local market share being ceded by newspaper companies who failed to confront their own crisis before it was too late.

On a parallel track, public radio and TV stations face similar headwinds with their traditional broadcast audiences. A number of them received a windfall of millions from the FCC’s recent broadcast spectrum auction, and with it the capacity to reinvent themselves.

Public and commercial broadcasters alike could look to how NPR affiliate KPCC in Los Angeles went digital first with its revival of LAist, and how it adapted some of the things public media is best at doing for a new audience.

Developing a digital audience beyond traditional broadcast channels and formats means more text-based reporting (pivot away from video?), more attention to authentic audience engagement, and maybe even commercial TV and radio digital subscription and membership programs.

And while there’s a strong tradition of investigative reporting by broadcasters, that transition will require breaking exclusive news on more routine matters. That means doing the local beat reporting that’s been lost as newspapers have cut back, not just doing an audio or video version of stories that other outlets have reported in text.

Matt DeRienzo is a media industry consultant who most recently as vice president of news and digital content at Hearst’s Connecticut newspapers.

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