Local TV News: The Solid Medium

I love new electronic toys. They make life easier. Last week, some of my staff members were giving me weird looks as I spoke my IMs. That is, I used the Google voice function on my Droid to write out an instant message rather than typing it. If you ever get any of my text messages, you would know why I like to be able to not use my heavy-handed thumbs to punch out my missives.

But I wonder if the media technologist in all of you (and in me) can become too in love with technology and not recognize the solid delivery that traditional media can provide. Take local news, for example. Traditionally, in the 156 markets that are served by a diary sample issued four times a year, the value of local news can be misunderstood, because it isn’t measured well. First off, numbers bounce all over the place and secondly, there aren’t many numbers at all. The nice thing about the return path data that Rentrak employs is the continuous and large footprint. This means stability and granularity.

Take Rochester, New York, a local market that is in the top 80, where Rentrak has approximately 12,000 homes reporting every day. If we look at the first quarter of this year, for the daily household ratings for Monday through Friday news, we see a very stable pattern across the entire quarter for two local stations. In fact, both the high rated and lower rated stations shown below have the same very low level of statistical variation of <10%. (The coefficient of variation—email me and I’ll explain it.)

Daily M-F News at 6 Chart

And that stability isn’t just something that happened in one quarter. Look at the same quarter in 2012. The rating levels of the two stations have the same stability, and are very close to what they achieved in 2013.

News at 6 Chart

This continuous, solid delivery is not to be taken lightly. Media plans for core targets (of which there are many—I use toilet paper and I hope you do, too) need a strong base from which to build. Local news isn’t a bad place to start from a reach perspective. They provide large audiences, without much duplication between them. The interesting thing is, the news programs do move in tandem, when there are big (or small) news stories, the stations’ ratings track each other as shown below.

Daily M-F News at 6 Chart

Local news can also deliver narrower segments, including online buyers. Rentrak has merged its viewing data with MasterCard’s purchase segments. And, as seen below, a news series can perform well (or at average) in broad categories like grocery shopping and fine dining, and can index higher for Black Friday shopping both on and offline, as well as for very high spenders for Holiday shopping. Something to remember at this time of year.

Index of Top Spending by MasterCard Categories Chart

So, the relatively low-tech medium of local news delivers a substantial audience day in and day out, provides reach, reflects what is (or isn’t) interesting to the local community, and can deliver traditional, and online buyers. I believe that solid delivery can help form the broad base of a media strategy.

Now back to the toys!

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.


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