Local Matters: Why Local TV News Is Always an Essential Media Buy

By Michael Felicetti, Vice President, News at New York Interconnect

Like politics, all news is local. Even when there’s a big national or international news story (whether it’s Russia invading Ukraine, the World Cup or one of the biggest news moments of all time), it’s the local angles that ultimately interest us most. In fact, well over half (62%) of Americans watch local news on television daily. Even when national news seems to drown out local angles, there are still stories close to home that viewers care about: weather, sports and traffic.

And for advertisers, local TV news is still a powerful way to reach a very targeted and engaged audience. On both strategic focus and practical planning levels, it provides a way to persist amid the tumult of national news cycles playing out in the background. It provides a means for sustainability.

Specifically during ratings cycles when national news events are commanding most of the attention, weather events as one example of the power of local, still drive local audience spikes. The same is true of local events, sports, and feel-good moments like spotlights of local heroes and good Samaritans. Local news is a safe haven for marketers, which can be further ensured by sponsoring something positive like a sports report or local event.

And although local audiences are admittedly smaller during big national news cycles, they aren’t necessarily less valuable. In fact, many advertisers don’t want to be associated with most national stories which are decidedly negative. Local news does not spend a significant amount of time on these types of stories, but rather the essentials that affect viewers in their backyard communities.

You can’t time the news market, but you can have a strategy for why to invest in local news for the long haul. Among the top reasons brands should still be loyal to local news:

  • Trust and credibility: Viewers trust local news. Americans continue to hold local news in higher regard than national news across a variety of metrics, according to a new poll from Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation shows, regardless of political party affiliations. So, to some degree, this suggests an element of brand safety by association. And when seeking local news, most Americans turn to mainstream local news outlets such as broadcast news affiliates (33%).
  • Connection to the community: Not only do anchors live in the areas they serve and tell stories that are locally relevant, the same Gallup poll cited above shows that Americans also say local news does the best job of keeping them informed, holding leaders accountable and amplifying stories in their communities. Another recent poll also found that 72% of people believe local news helps enact positive change in their local community, while 63% feel local news holds businesses and government accountable.
  • Real-time viewing: Local news is real-time and daily, and still must-see TV. In fact, apart from sports, it’s arguably the last bastion of DVR-proof content so viewers don’t skip ads. For brands that want to reach a local audience, local news delivers.
  • High-value sponsorship opportunities: Local news still has sponsorship opportunities that don’t compromise the integrity of the news, while providing a valuable (non-controversial), high impact platform for advertisers.

Local news matters, and local TV is still the leading way (even when the path darkens or gets rocky on the broader terrain) to reach a local audience. While the national news cycle might be the story getting the most play, local news is where audiences return for what matters most: things happening in their own backyard.