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TODD SMITH — Local news surges as a hungry public seeks the latest on the Coronavirus


Local news is seeing an increase in audience as people seek the latest information on the Coronavirus crisis.

In a new report, Nielsen says that news viewing in the top 25 markets was up 6.9% for the week of March 9, compared to the week of Feb. 3.

Different age groups showed different levels of increase. People 25 to 54, the traditional news demographic, were up 10.1%. Younger adults in the 18 to 24-year-old range, were up 9.2%. The smallest increase — 4.3% — came among those 55 and up.

Surprisingly, the biggest increase was among young folks age 2 to 17 with a 20.4% bump.

“Non-adults have typically contributed very little to the profile of local news viewing,” Justin LaPorte, VP of local audience insights at Nielsen told Broadcasting & Cable. ”In the week of March 9, however, when schools across the U.S. began to move to in-home learning, 25-54s added more local news to their daily routines. As a result, there was more viewing among non-adults.”

All of the top 10 markets showed double-digit increases among adults 25-54. The biggest gain was in the San Francisco market, where viewing was up 38.1%. The second biggest increase was in Orlando, up 25.1%, followed by Los Angeles, Seattle and Boston.

The smallest increase among the top 10 markets was in New York, the No. 1 market and the place with the most Coronavirus cases.

Across the top 25 markets, where Nielsen employs its local people meters to collect viewing data, most broadcast viewing showed increases, led by local news. Local news had a 30.9% share, up 5 share points from Feb. 3. Broadcast dramas, participation variety shows, situation comedies and feature films all increase their share of total viewing, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

Instagram has new way to Connect

Facebook’s Instagram has unveiled a feature that lets users browse the app with friends over video chat as a way to keep people connected during orders to stay isolated to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The feature is called Co-Watching, and it allows users in direct-message conversations to check out saved, liked and suggested photos and videos together while video chatting. 

The new feature is part of a broader effort by Instagram and Facebook to support users and their communities during the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the biggest role Facebook can play is encouraging people to take social distancing orders seriously.

Along with Co-Watching, Instagram also announced plans to expand the amount of educational resources the app shows in its search results, ramp up the removal of COVID-19 content unless it is posted by a credible health organization, and roll out sticker features that promote accurate information and allow users to donate to relevant nonprofits. 

“We will continue to prioritize safety, connecting people with accurate information, and encouraging support as the COVID-19 outbreak evolves,” the company told CNBC. 

Facebook has been one of the most proactive companies in responding to the outbreak of the coronavirus. 

It has been quick to ban ads for medical face masks, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and COVID-19 test kits that could lead to scams or price gouging. With employees, Facebook has offered a variety of support, including giving up to one month of paid leave to any workers who need to care for a sick relative. 

John Deere Green Mic: Joe Diffie is 1st country star to die from Coronavirus

Paint us all John Deere Blue!

One of the country music icons of the 1990s – Joe Diffie – has died from coronavirus complications, the first superstar in the genre who has passed away from the tragic pandemic. He was 61.

Another famed Americana star, John Prine, is recovering from the grim virus, moving from critical to stable as of this writing.

Diffie, a Grammy winner and longtime Grand Ole Opry member, was best known for his mega hits “John Deere Green” and “Pickup Man,” among a long list of chart toppers through the decades.

Diffie moved to Music City in 1986 after losing his factory job in Oklahoma. His first job was as a worker at the Gibson guitar plant, where he sang on demos in his spare time, notching hits for the likes of Ricky Van Shelton, Billy Dean and Alabama.

His first hit was Holly Dunn’s “There Goes My Heart Again,” and he soon thereafter scored a record deal with Epic. His star quickly rose from there.

Diffie topped the charts with his very first single, 1990’s “Home,” a great fit for a young man chasing his dream in Nashville. With numerous hits in his boots, he hit his stride several years later with the release of “Honky Tonk Attitude,” his first platinum album.

Then his follow-up went meteoric … “Third Rock From The Sun,” another platinum album that firmly established the man as a king country crooner. That album scored six other Top 10 hits, including the chart-topping title track with its ode to rock stardom, and “Bigger Than the Beatles.”

Diffie earned a Grammy award for “Same Old Train,” a star-studded collaboration with Marty Stuart, featuring Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Alison Kraus and others.

Unfortunately, his star dimmed in the 2000s (his final Top 10 hit was “In Another World” in 2001).

But his country music celebrity was already writ large in glowing neon. New and emerging artists carried his twangy torch forward in recent decades, continuously celebrating his mark. Perhaps none was louder than Jason Aldean’s “1994,” which mentioned Diffie’s name more than a dozen times.

During my time as a country music critic for The Washington Times in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was impressed with Diffie’s Southern grit and musical range – from redneck anthems to tender ballads – that made him one of the lead horses pulling the genre to record-setting levels.

Diffie celebrated 25 years of Opry membership just last year, and once again took the stage with friends Ricky Skaggs, Michael Ray and Vince Gill to belt out the hits with his trademark bellicose baritone vocals.

Somewhere just beyond the Pearly Gates, he’s propped up beside a jukebox, crooning hits to the angels.

Lest we never forget “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die),” his 1993 hit.

“Well I ain’t afraid of dying, it’s the thought of being dead
I wanna go on being me once my eulogy’s been read
Don’t spread my ashes out to sea, don’t lay me down to rest
You can put my mind at ease if you fill my last request

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die
Lord I wanna go to Heaven, but I don’t wanna go tonight
Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand
Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

Just let my headstone be a neon sign
Just let it burn in memory of all of my good times
Fix me up with a mannequin, just remember I like blondes
I’ll be the life of the party even when I’m dead and gone.”

Yes, my friend, you are!

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 co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, 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, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.