When local TV stations were suddenly forced to produce all of their live newscasts from home, valuable lessons were learned that should probably be put into permanent practice going forward, said Chris Archer, partner, EVP, media strategies and Michelle Toy, content strategist, SmithGeiger.
“Local news has always been a trusted source but now it’s an extreme trusted source,” said Archer. “And the more people watch the more they trust us.”
First and foremost, “authenticity is a key component of what we need going forward,” said Archer. “We’re seeing all kinds of authenticity pop up in local news now.”
“And we need to do that on all platforms—not just TV but also on phones, apps and so forth,” said Toy.
One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that people and companies quickly learned how much they could accomplish while working remotely.
“We’re seeing accelerated innovation as a result of the pandemic,” Archer said. “We’re doing things now that we never thought possible before. We can’t waste this moment. We have momentum and we can’t go back. If we go back, we throw a lot of that out the window.”
What SmithGeiger found in surveying TV viewers was that local TV news offers three things—trust, authenticity and community—that viewers don’t find while consuming content in any other venue.
When asked “do you trust mostly or completely these sources? More than 50% of viewers said they trusted local news on TV and 49% said they trust local TV websites. The number-three most trusted news source was Google followed by their local TV station’s news app.
“The top three out of four are local newscasts,” said Archer. Moreover, what isn’t at the top of the list is glaring: network TV news and cable TV news, in particular.
Meanwhile, research proves that people are consuming a lot of social media, but “they don’t trust it,” said Toy. “They are on those platforms a lot but they don’t find them nearly as trustworthy as local news.”
“The more people use local news, the more they trust it. The more people use Facebook, the less they trust it,” said Archer.
Viewers also really like seeing local news anchors broadcasting from their homes, Smith Geiger’s research found, and Archer and Toy highly recommended keeping that authenticity in place once the pandemic ends.
“Suddenly viewers are in the living rooms with newscasters and seeing them in their real lives,” said Toy.
“When reporters and anchors go back to the studio, they need to take that newfound authenticity with them,” said Archer.
SmithGeiger also recommends extending that authenticity to marketing campaigns.
“We’re not saying work from home forever but in promos, etc., we want to see reporters out there in their communities,” concluded Toy.
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