Last month, Pew Internet published a media study on “How People Learn about their Community”. After the weather, breaking news – a real time ticker tape amalgam of Arab leaders being overthrown, earthquakes, sports scores, murders and accidents – comprise what locals look for.
So what do people look for in local news? It’s pretty mundane. Local news itself – the events coverage, the crimes, the accidents, the lifestyle stories – can by definition only appeal to locals. Ever watch the local news in a town you don’t live in? It’s an irrelevant time waster. Locals check news for items of personal connection and impact. Here is what they clicked on October 26 at the ticker tape Twitter feed of breaking Bergen County news in New Jersey @bergenctynews:
It’s easy to see the reasons why locals will click on these news items:
1) Locals click on news items of tangible impact, particularly those directly associated with the physical or financial well being of the community. FEMA assistance for Hurricane Irene, and rising pension costs qualify.
2) Locals always click on crime (the more prurient or horrific, the more clickable) and accident news to see if they know anybody involved in theft or prostitution, or got hurt.
3) Locals will click on news that affect their family circles and societies. What school would ban Halloween?
Note that Bergen County news is also broadcast ticker tape style on Facebook, where 2,000+ locals click on and discuss the news on Facebook. Facebook is a news channel that many indie publisher ignore because Facebook seems too personal to broadcast news. But Facebook’s community intimacy could potentially evolve into forums for local conversation as more people get used to using Facebook for business and data as well as personal connection.
Simply put, we see the same consumption pattern across all Breaking News feeds we monitor. One surprising conclusion for publishers might be that providing great local content is admirable, but a ticker tape of mundane news should be incorporated to keep locals coming back to “check up”.