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TODD SMITH: The state of local TV news continues to diminish

TODD SMITH

Local television news has shed audience over the past decade, including this past year in most timeslots according to a new Pew Research Center study.

Even with these viewership losses, local TV news still garners more viewers on average than cable and network news programs. However, for election news in particular – a big part of last year’s news agenda – cable news brands were named as the main news source by a greater portion of voters than local TV news programming. Financially, local TV companies have generated increasing revenue, though in a cyclical pattern tied to election years.

In 2016, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) declined in key time slots – morning, early evening and late night, according to Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. Since 2007, the average audience for late night newscasts has declined 31 percent, while morning audience declined 12 percent and early evening audience fell 19 percent. Local TV noon and 7 p.m. news viewership also declined.

Local TV station revenue typically follows a cyclical pattern: increasing in election years and decreasing in non-election years. In 2016, an election year, local TV over-the-air advertising revenue totaled $20.6 billion, an 11 percent increase over 2015, according to BIA/Kelsey data. By comparison with other election years, local TV advertising revenue in 2014 was $20 billion and in 2012, it was $20.3 billion.

Total digital advertising revenue for local TV stations increased 10 percent in 2016 (reaching a total of about $1 billion). Digital advertising revenue accounts for a small portion of total ad revenue.

Advertising revenue for 832 local TV stations defined as “news-producing stations” (i.e. stations that have a news director and are viable, commercial and English-language affiliates) was estimated at $17.3 billion, which is 84 percent of the total $20.6 billion revenue for the industry overall, according to BIA/Kelsey data.

Staff salaries in the local TV sector were up for most newsroom positions in 2015, the last year data are available for local TV staff salaries, according to the annual RTDNA/Hofstra University survey. The survey finds that the median salary for a news director position at local TV newsrooms rose 7 percent in 2015, while the median news reporter salary rose 11 percent.

The average amount of weekday local TV news programming increased somewhat in 2016, according to the RTDNA/Hofstra University survey. Local TV stations dedicated an average of 5.7 hours to news programming per weekday in 2016 – up from 5.5 in 2015.

In 2016, 98 local TV stations changed hands at a cost of about $5 billion, as annually reported by BIA/Kelsey. This is up from $670 million across 86 stations that experienced changes in ownership in 2015.

Google launches news feed

Google has rolled out its take on the news feed, a personalized stream of articles, videos, and other content. The feed will appear in its flagship app for Android and iOS, simply called Google. The feed, which includes items drawn from your search history and topics you choose to follow, is designed to turn Google’s app into a destination for browsing as well as search. Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.

Google previewed its new feed in December, when it introduced the feature to its Android app. Previously, the space below the search bar was reserved for Google Now, the company’s predictive search feature, which displayed personalized weather, traffic, sports scores, and other information.

With the introduction of the feed, the Google Now brand is going away, and the updates it used to contain are moving to a secondary tab called “updates.” The main space underneath the search bar will now contain a stream of cards related to your interests. In a demo at Google’s offices in San Francisco recently, a product manager’s feed included articles about the Oakland Athletics, a trending article about the Tour de France, and a 10-month-old blog post about a classical musician who she had previously seen in concert.

In most feeds, a 10-month-old blog post would appear stale and unwelcome. Google says it’s a sign of the company’s strengths – it can reach into the long tail of articles on the web, and surface them to audiences that missed them the first time around. Facebook and Twitter give priority to latest updates; Google says it’s working to prioritize relevance.

When you perform searches in the app, a subset of results will now show a “follow” button alongside results. News, sports, and entertainment stories are among the categories where you can expect to see follow buttons to start. Tap them and Google will work to bring you related content into the feed.

You can customize the feed by tapping the three dots on top of each card. From there, you can follow a subject or share the item on other social networks. You can also tell Google you’re “done with this story” and avoid seeing future updates, or tell it you don’t want to see any more articles from a particular publisher. You can’t follow individual publishers today, but publishers will surely clamor for it, and Google said it will consider adding that feature eventually.

For now, Google says there won’t be ads in the feed, although I’m sure that’s an eventuality, too. Google is an ad business, after all, and it’s running out of places to put new ads on mobile devices. Earlier this year, it added a fourth advertising unit to search results in its mobile app, making you scroll down three screens before you see unpaid search results for some queries.

Open Mic | Jordon Spieth makes history as British Open champ

Jordan Spieth made history with one of the most entertaining winning rounds in Open Championship history last week.

He took the third leg of the career Grand Slam before his 24th birthday, became the youngest American to win The Open, and enhanced his legend as one the all-time greats who will continue to succeed through major championships for decades to come.

But the legend will always include the incredible turnaround at the 13th hole at Royal Birkdale. Spieth looked lost on the greens and had just knocked his tee shot left, forced to take an unplayable drop and fired a shot from the practice tee to the left side of the green. Matt Kuchar became the new favorite to win, and Spieth needed a bogey save to keep the wheels from totally falling off.

Now, you know what happened next: birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie – championship!

Spieth came in with 32 after going out in 37 for as epic a 69 as you’ll find in major championship golf. He joins Tiger Woods (2005) and Rory McIlroy (2014) as the only players to go wire-to-wire for the win at The Open in the last four decades. Spieth is forging a golden era of golfing greatness, and for that takes the Golden Mic to go with his shiny silver Claret Jug.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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