Media Surveys Give Hyperlocals Short Shrift | Street Fight

Media Surveys Give Hyperlocals Short Shrift

Media Surveys Give Hyperlocals Short Shrift

The latest survey looking at the trustworthiness of media comes via Craiglist founder Craig Newmark, and ranks newspapers on top. But I’m skeptical of findings that also rank the Internet, including hyperlocals, so low.

Quality — and trustworthiness is its No. 1 criterion —  is important to Web platforms not only for the prestige it conveys but also for the potential ad revenue it represents. Advertisers, reacting to the proliferation of content on the Web (much of it commoditized to create inventory for ads) are making more of their placement decisions based on editorial quality. There’s a growing body of evidence that quality promotes user engagement, which means more user receptiveness to commercial messages, and click-throughs to ads. “Premium quality” sites — often organized in exchanges — can command $15-$20 and even higher CPMs.

I do think it’s likely that newspapers are still the preferred medium for political coverage, but even there I don’t believe young people have such low trust of the Web as CraigConnects reports — 18% in the 18-35 age group vs. 27% for newspapers. Pew Research Center said in a September 2011 report that the 18-39 age group chose the Web as its top source for political coverage by 26% compared to 16% for newspapers.

Trust Based on Accurate Reporting of Politics and Elections (CraigConnects)

AGE GROUP

18-35

36-44

45-64

65+

Newspapers

27%

23%

17%

24%

News Websites

18%

13%

12%

13%

Source: CraigConnects, February 2012

 

How People Learn About Their Community (Pew)

Politics (Age Groups)

Community Events

Schools

18-39

40+

18-39

40+

18-39

40+

Newspapers

16%

34%

n/a

32%

12%

27%

News Websites

26%

12%

19%

n/a

24%

15%

Source: ‘How People Learn About Their Local Community,’ Pew Research Center, September 2011

 

But, of course, politics is only one news topic among at least 16 (as enumerated by Pew in its report).  While CraigConnects didn’t include other topics, Pew pinpointed how each of the media performed as the preferred choice of news consumers. Local websites that weren’t owned by newspapers did fairly well, but many Pew respondents came from communities with struggling or editorially weak independent sites, or none at all, and that mathematical distribution weakened the average performance of Web sites vs. newspapers. The Pew report also fuzzed up some of its findings by treating social media (e.g., Twitter and Facebook) as a separate media category, when much of it is tied to how hyperlocal and other websites interact with those platforms.

What’s needed is a survey that’s as thorough as Pew’s but which is confined to those communities with at least one credible independent site as well as a network site — like a Patch or Main Street Connect outlet — and at least one “legacy” (newspaper or local TV) site. That arrangement wouldn’t be hard to find, and it would create an equal match-up among local websites. The survey would also attempt to identify how hyperlocals and other websites promote social media connections via Twitter and Facebook.

Based on the strong Internet numbers among younger (under 44) audience of Pew, I think a study like the one I’ve described would show, conclusively, that local and hyperlocal sites are passing print newspapers as the dominant preferred medium across most if not all news topics, and in trust.  Existing stats show Web sites steadily gaining on newspapers as the preferred medium of news consumers.

Among local websites, which would come out on top — the indies, networks or legacies? I guess we’ll have to wait for the survey for the answer to that intriguing question

Tom Grubisich authors The New News column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of LocalAmerica, which is developing a Web site to rank communities on their livability across 20-plus categories. The rankings will be dynamic, going up and down daily as they are updated through a combination of open data, journalism and feedback from local experts and users of the site.