Study on local TV news ads, websites

By Cory Bergman 

Hearst-Argyle and Magid teamed up for a research study (of local news viewers 25-54) that drilled down on the effectiveness of ads in TV newscasts compared to other programming. “Respondents reported that ads on local TV news drive greater product/service awareness than those within any other program type,” reads a press release previewing the results. The same study also looked at the power of local TV websites. “After search engines, local TV news websites are the most frequently used for local news and weather.” And interestingly, the study found that “online video viewing of local TV news content is higher than that for any other genre,” 37% for local news compared to 31% each for cable news and primetime programming.

Update: Aaron points out in comments that the study was isolated to local news viewers, 25-54, which naturally would result in a local TV skew. This is one of the biggest dangers, in my opinion, of local TV research. By limiting the sample to TV viewers, we’re missing some of the more disturbing trends in our industry. For example, why is an increasing number of 20 and 30-somethings not watching local TV news? Is it just because of the internet, or it also because of a “live, local and latebreaking” style that these same consultants have spread across the country? What can local media operations — don’t call them local TV stations, anymore — do to get in front of this? I do, however, applaud the effort to trumpet the many positives of local TV news programming and local TV websites, two terrific platforms for local advertisers.

More nuggets in the press release below…

PRESS RELEASE — NEW YORK, NY, February 28, 2008 — Not only is local TV news content the biggest audience draw for news and information on-air and on digital platforms — it is also the most effective video advertising platform, according to new research results announced today by Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc., owner of one of the nation’s largest broadcast television station groups and more than 30 Websites.

The full survey results will be released in March. In a presentation today at the annual Association of National Advertisers (ANA) conference at New York City’s Marriott Marquis hotel, Hearst-Argyle President and CEO David Barrett discussed these findings:

– Viewers are more engaged with local news than most other genres;

– 55% of respondents cite TV as their primary source of news information, followed distantly by the Web (26%), and print newspapers (14%);

– Local TV news is more “DVR-proof” than other program formats; most viewers watch local news live, and even when they record these programs they are less likely to fast-forward through them;

– The greater loyalty audiences have toward local broadcast TV news is a factor in the effectiveness of advertising within the genre, and, in a key finding, respondents reported that ads on local TV news drive greater product/service awareness than those within any other program type.

Other research findings point to a strong linkage between leading local television news brands and the Web:

– After search engines, local TV news websites are the most frequently used for local news and weather;

– Online video viewing of local TV news content is higher than that for any other genre — 37% for local news vs. 31% each for cable news and primetime programming, 24% for reality TV video and 23% for broadcast network news;

– Among weather sources on the web, local TV websites are the “most important source” for weather information;

– Among the online population, local-news viewers are relatively affluent technology adapters: 44% have DVRs, 32% have HDTV sets.

The research was conducted for Hearst-Argyle by Frank N. Magid Associates. The Magid survey, one of the most ambitious such studies mounted, included more than 2,700 local news viewers, age 25-54.

Barrett noted that online ad spending on TV-centric websites has yet to catch up with the traffic delivered on these sites. According to a “2008 Outlook” report from Web research firm Borrell Associates, of the $8.5 billion spent on local web advertising in 2007 — estimated to reach $12.6 billion in 2008 — Internet “pure plays” such as Google received 43.7% and newspaper Websites received 33.4%, while local broadcast TV sites received only 9.3%, a disparity partially explained by the greater numbers of local ad salespeople working on behalf of local newspaper sites. For its part, Hearst-Argyle saw its own Websites in 2007 attract more than 1.7 billion pageviews from an average of nearly 15 million monthly unique visitors, according to WebTrends data.

Barrett added that the discussion of audience preferences has more relevance today as the world shifts to digital TV (DTV) and high-definition TV (HDTV). The DTV broadcast spectrum permits not only the broadcast of crisp, brilliant HDTV content, but the multicast of numerous standard-definition channels which can be used by television stations to provide content sought by their local audiences, and greater flexibility in programming for mobile devices. “Marketers are seeing renewed enthusiasm for TV as a source of news and other content, and that TV broadcasters now have wonderful resources to leverage on their behalf to reach audiences with local content they want.

“These findings indicate marketers can seize an advantage and use new digital technologies such as broadband and DTV spectrum to geo- and micro-target their messages,” Barrett continued, “and they can do it with video content providers who have exceedingly strong, trusted on-air, online and mobile content brands in key local markets.”

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