Study shows local TV news still No. 1


NEW YORK -- A new study suggests that the digital-media revolution is coming to local television but that stations have time to align their offerings to meet viewers' needs.

"The Future of News" survey, sponsored by the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation and conducted by Ball State University professor Bob Papper, flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says audiences and ad dollars are flying out of local TV in favor of new media. The survey of more than 1,000 adults -- including half younger than 25 -- finds that local TV news remains the No. 1 source of news with 65% saying that is how they get their news. That compared with 28% for newspapers and national TV, 15% for radio and 11% for the Internet.

But for all the talk of new media, the RTNDF study finds that it hasn't yet made major inroads into news consumers' lives. Less than 5% of those studied had ever watched news on a small screen and only a few more (10%) said that they had be interested in it. Blogs were only visited daily by 3% of those surveyed; two-thirds either didn't read blogs or even know what they were. The study's author said that was a mixed bag for TV stations.

"People will for the foreseeable future want to watch television," Papper said. "But an ever-increasing number of people want news when it's convenient for them and not simply convenient for the station."

He said that stations weren't just going to be able to pick up the "low-hanging fruit" like blogs and small-screen production to meet viewers' needs in the future. He said the survey turned up substantial numbers of people who wanted interactive newscasts and the ability to assemble their own, trends that stations will have to accommodate.

"It's not that stations shouldn't get involved in blogs or small screens. They need to recognize that it's not mass media, it's a niche market," Papper said. "The stuff that people really do seem to be interested in are the much more complicated stuff, it's on-demand, it's digital channels."

"We hear so much about the problems of traditional media, but what this says to us is that local television news is maintaining its strength," RTNDF president Barbara Corcoran said. "But news consumers want more control, more convenience, too."

The survey, which tested 1,016 people, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.