Mobile + Radio = News Consumption
As the calendar turned to October, our nation’s thoughts turned to the upcoming election, and as such, people are likely consuming more news during this time of year than others. For the next two months, the adage “all politics is local” is particularly true—with plenty of presidential swing states in play, as well as state and local elections, and ballot initiatives.
So it’s quite timely that late last month the Pew Internet & American Life Project issued the results of new research, “How people get local news and information in different communities,” a nationally-representative telephone survey of American adults exploring local news consumption habits by various community types.
And there were a number of interesting results relevant to radio—in particular, radio has tremendous ongoing relevance as a means of delivering news to certain communities, and technologies like mobile are helping to escalate this relevance.
Increasingly, people are creating their own mash-ups of news sources: It’s not news that the splintering of media has changed people’s consumption habits—we’re not all watching Walter Cronkite, or Katie Couric, for that matter, anymore. But it is interesting to note that, rather than relying on one or two main sources of local news, most adults use a wide variety of both traditional and online sources. Close to half of urbanites and suburbanites use a combination of traditional, online, and mobile news media to get their local news, while 38 percent of those living in small cities and 27 percent of rural residents do so.
“Social” media is important, but used—and even defined—differently in various communities: Urban residents are most likely to “be part of the news” by using social media to share news with friends and even tips with editors. Suburbanites are most heavily into social media as a means to find news. And rural residents define “social” in a more classic way: word-of-mouth sources.
Mobile is emerging as a medium for consuming news: More than half of urban (53 percent) and suburban (57 percent) residents get some kind of local news or information via cell phone or tablet computer; but even small city (45 percent) and rural (35 percent) are using the devices to get local news. These can include apps, mobile search, mobile websites, and opt-in news text alerts from local media—including radio.
Radio is tops with suburbanites, still relevant with others: Those who live in suburban communities are more likely than others to rely on local radio as a platform (perhaps because of relatively longer commuting times). They are more interested than others in news and information about arts and cultural events, and they are particularly interested in local restaurants, traffic, and taxes. Yet radio and associated properties—including mobile websites and apps—remain relevant across all audiences, with anywhere from 46 percent (small city) to 55 percent (suburban) tuning in to at least one local news radio broadcast each week.
So what does this all mean for radio and news?
First off, any rumors of radio’s demise as a source of news were wrong. We are still relevant for local news across all kinds of communities.
And second, there is a tremendous opportunity for us to embrace technologies like mobile to further engage with listeners who turn to us as a trusted source for news, and remain important to communities that are relying heavily upon, or transitioning to, smartphones and tablets to get their news. Whether it’s opt-in SMS programs for text alerts, mobile websites with unique content, or branded radio station apps, there is real value in the convergence of news, radio, and mobile. This can work both in regions that are more likely to use mobile technology as well as those who are lagging but beginning to adopt—radio can be an important hub for all types of online and offline content, and mobile can be a big part of that.
With the elections next month, people are going to be looking for news—national and local—more than ever. By adopting new technologies that complement our longtime history of news-gathering and reporting, we can be a critical link to listeners, no matter where they live.
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