Ratings may be dropping, but local television remains Americans’ number one source of news, according to a new survey sponsored by Hearst Argyle Television. The preliminary results: 55% of respondents cited TV as their primary source of news information, ahead of the Web (26%) and print newspapers (14%). The survey found that local TV wins online too–after search engines, local TV Web sites are the most frequently used sources of local news and weather. And that’s not all:
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.
A survey sponsored by a company that owns local TV stations might be considered suspect, but these results are in line with other studies. And the new research doesn’t sugar coat the problems local TV faces online.
Ad spending on local TV sites lags far behind other outlets:
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.
Still, the survey comes as encouraging news for the industry just as it digests some not-so-rosy results from the February sweeps period. From Boston to Denver, the local TV news audience shrank. Stations blame the writers’ strike and hope the decline is temporary. But some experts I’ve talked to think the economic outlook for broadcast TV is generally gloomy–something to keep in mind as you’re looking for that first or next job.