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TODD SMITH — Digital local news is increasingly desired by audiences


Folks prefer to catch the news via digital media, according to new research into audience habits in the digital age.

Nearly as many Americans today prefer to get their local news online as they do so through TV, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 34,897 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 15-Nov. 8, 2018, on the Center’s American Trends Panel and Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel. The 41 percent of Americans who say they prefer getting their local news via TV and the 37 percent who prefer it online significantly outnumber those who prefer a printed newspaper or the radio (13 percent and 8 percent, respectively).

Even as the preference for digital delivery ticks up, news via TV, local television stations retain a strong hold in the local news community. They top the list of nine types of local news providers, with 38 percent of U.S. adults saying they often get news from a local television station. That is followed by 20 percent who often turn to local radio stations and 17 percent who rely on local daily newspapers.

Next are a range of less traditional sources such as online forums or discussion groups (12 percent), local organizations such as school groups or churches (8 percent), and community newsletters or listservs (8 percent). While individually these less traditional sources garner far smaller audiences than the big three (local TV, daily papers and radio stations), together they add up: 28 percent of the public often gets news from at least one of the six less traditional providers asked about.

The degree to which the public accesses each type of provider digitally versus non-digitally varies a great deal. First, the overwhelming majority of Americans who get news from local TV stations primarily do so decidedly old school: from TV (76 percent), not from the stations’ websites or social media accounts (22 percent). Radio is similarly tied to its traditional form. But most other providers have a substantial share of online audience. For example, 43 percent of daily newspaper consumers tend to get that news digitally, as do 49 percent of those who rely on community newsletters or listservs.

This nationally representative study also shows that many Americans are not getting local news that is mostly about their own area – a concern raised by many journalism watchers following newsroom cutbacks and media consolidation. About half of U.S. adults (47 percent) say the local news they get mostly covers an area other than where they live such as a nearby city, while the rest (51 percent) say it mostly covers their living area.

Google launches data product for journalists

A little more than a year ago Google announced its $300 million News Initiative, which included funding for independent journalism efforts along with its products.

One of those services was News Consumer Insights, which has been used by publishers like Business Insider, BuzzFeed and Conde Nast. NCI takes data already collected through Google Analytics and makes it more useful for publishers, particularly when it comes to understanding different audience segments and whether the are likely to move to paying subscribers.

Now Google is building on NCI with a new tool called Real-time Content Insights, according to TechCrunch.

RCI is focused on telling publishers what’s happening on their site in real time, and helping them identify trending news stories that could attract more readers. The initial NCI data is more useful for the publisher’s business or audience development teams, according to experts.

RCI features a robust dashboard that indicates how many readers are looking at a story currently, and how many views the story had in the past 30 minutes. Consumers can compare the today’s stats to daily averages, even segment by geography and referral sources.

The dashboard also shows trending topics on Google and Twitter. At first glance, RCI doesn’t seem to tie directly into the bigger goals of helping publishers building sustainable, diversified business models. However,

Chopped Down Mic | Cherry trees nearly crash Nashville’s NFL draft party

Call it Cherrygate! Or a modern day George Washington tale.

A group of more than 20 cherry blossom trees in downtown Nashville recently found its majestic canopies in the center of a Super Bowl-sized controversy as Music City finalizes logistics to host the NFL draft later this month.

Plans called for organizers to construct a mammoth stage for some of country music’s biggest acts in the midst of all the NFL festivities. The problem: the trees were in the way, and they were about to be removed. The public outcry was deafening.

Throngs signed a Change.org petition as the cherry controversy blossomed into a mini-crisis. A couple of days after the story bloomed, city leaders and the NFL sprung to action.

Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation – the local organizing body for this year’s NFL Draft – apologized to the community for considering cutting down the trees.

“To the citizens of Nashville, to Mayor (David) Briley and to the Metro Council,” Spyridon said in a hastily called presser. “The NFL and our organization heard the public outcry loud and clear. We thought we would be helpful in removing the trees and replacing them. We were wrong and we apologize.”

During the press conference, Spyridon offered insight into the decision-making process behind the future of the trees and clarified how many will be relocated. He said the number of trees that need to be moved to make way for what is “likely the largest stage ever constructed in the state” will now be just 10. All of the impacted trees sit back along the circle drive at Riverfront Park. “None of those beautiful, blooming cherry trees lining 1st Avenue North will be touched,” Spyridon said.

There are now plans to hire the best horticulturists it can find to help move the trees as safely as possible.

The NFL Draft has become one of the biggest stages in pro football, along with the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl and other annual rights of pigskin passage.

For years, it was a two-day event broadcast over cable television from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Five years ago, the NFL began hosting the event in other cities, including Chicago and Philadelphia. The draft draws about 45 million television and online viewers on all networks.

The impact on a city’s brand is undeniable. The 2018 NFL draft, hosted by Dallas, generated $125 million, a record that bodes strong returns for Nashville this year.

News coverage reached more than 1 billion media impressions, according to officials.

Nashville will no doubt roll out a Music City-sized red carpet for the event April 25-27 for what could be the biggest media event in the city’s history.

“We got to this level of success by being mindful of who we are and reaching for the stars a little bit and taking Nashville to a new level,” Spyridon said. “Sometimes we got ahead of ourselves, admittedly, but I think you are either growing or dying as a city, and I believe our day job is to showcase the city for the great city that it is.

“In our own brand promise, we talk about protecting the authenticity of the city,” he said. “I think it’s a balance. I think this is a good reminder of that balance. Lesson learned. Hard lesson learned.”

One of the first rules of crisis communications is to get out ahead of controversy with clarity of message, honesty, authenticity and empathy. It is imperative to react quickly and decisively. If you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Talk about how you are going to remedy the situation. Seek forgiveness.

Your audience – most often – will reciprocate in a spirit of understanding. We all make mistakes. It’s human nature.

Although Nashville officials perhaps waited a bit too long, they responded in a true spirit of repentance, with a remedy for the misstep. The football gods will no doubt smile on the shindig, and the majestic city that hopes to take the event to exciting new levels.

Folks, this is a fumble in the first quarter, and there’s a whole lot of game left. The Spin Cycle knows this will be a huge win for the sports loving world!

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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