Andrew Heyward, former head of CBS News from 1996 until 2005, recently wrote a piece in AdvertisingAge that starts out like most “Local News Is In Trouble” stories. But get past the stats about local news going the way of the wireless radio or newspapers or the McDLT and you’ll find a refreshing look at what may be keeping young viewers away from local news.
Heyward says the biggest allure of TV news for older viewers may be the biggest roadblock for younger ones, a one size fits all format where the station decides what the viewers see.
The next generation doesn’t need ours to organize the world into a tidy package. Ironically, the value of a local newscast to its loyalists — that it wraps the day in a friendly, familiar, reassuring experience that viewers can sit back and enjoy — is the very thing that makes the genre seem archaic if not irrelevant to the BuzzFeed and Reddit crowd. “One size fits all” holds little appeal to a generation that has grown up with “one size fits me.”
Along those lines, Heyward recommends looking outside the media model to find a way to get the kids to watch.
Ad Age’s recent scoop on McDonald’s new McWrap quoted a company memo describing the rationale: “Our customers are consistently telling us, particularly millennials, they expect variety, more choices, customization and their ability to be able to personalize their food experience.”
Substitute “news” for “food” in that sentence, and you have a pretty good recipe for the digital future of local news. That’s why the nation’s forward-looking local news managers are looking well beyond the next sweeps period. The ones who succeed have the potential to help create a new golden age of local media. The ones who don’t will find that some May down the road, the only customers they have left will be the ones who think the anchorman and the weatherman are actually friends.
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