Where Do You Get Your Political News From?
We've heard about the impending death of traditional media for years. Daily newspapers continue to cut journalists from their ranks, news has disappeared from many radio stations, some TV stations aren't doing sports on weekends anymore and who even reads printed magazines these days? Well, not so fast.
It didn't get much fanfare, but there was some coverage of a survey last week that showed Albertans are still using good old traditional media outlets as their number one source for political news.
While it may be a sign that we should take traditional media off life support, the chances for long-term survival still aren't great and here's why.
Traditional Media Still Packs a Punch
The survey was completed by independent pollster Janet Brown. Albertans were asked where they go to for news on politics and television news and old fashion printed newspapers came out the big winners.
65% of the people asked mentioned TV news as their source of information on Alberta political stories, while 36% said they get their political news from newspapers. When totals for printed and online versions of newspapers are combined, the two amounted to almost as many mentions as TV news.
Social media sources like Facebook and Twitter were far behind at only 15% and 4% respectively. Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid did a piece on the survey last week.
Some Qualifiers to the Survey
Keep in mind, the survey only asked Albertans where they get their political news. It didn’t ask them where they get news and information on celebrities, music, movies fashion, pop culture, or the latest episode of Dancing With the Stars. I wouldn’t expect TV news or newspapers to fare quite as well on those topics.
I also wonder how people were able to figure out where they were getting their political news from. Let’s face it; it has become quite murky because of social media. In the old days, it was simple. There was TV news, newspapers and radio, and that was it. Now there are all kinds of hybrids. All forms of traditional media are using social media to get their online stories read more often. If the Calgary Sun posts a story on Twitter that leads to the person reading the story on the Sun’s website, does the reader believe the story is coming from the newspaper or from Twitter? If the Ottawa Citizen does the same thing with Facebook, does the reader think they’re getting their news from the paper or from the Facebook page? I don’t know if the people who were asked could sort it out.
I always chuckle when people say they don’t care if print journalists lose their jobs because they get their news from the internet. Much of the news that’s on the internet is created by newspapers and TV stations. Social media is just used to make it more available.
TV Has Jumped to the Pump
It shouldn’t be surprising that television rules the roost. It’s a visual medium, offering much more impact on political stories. A great example was the live coverage of this past weekend’s Conservative Leadership Convention. That was pretty good stuff.
While radio and newspapers have been spending far less on editorial content, television has been spending more. Look at the news coverage from CTV and Global stations in major markets across Canada. Both have at least three hours of live programming in the morning, an hour at noon, a half an hour to an hour at 5:00pm, an hour at 6:00pm and a half an hour to an hour at 11:00pm. That’s around seven hours of live, local news programming every weekday.
That’s not cheap, so it’s good to see Albertans are using TV to get their news on politics. Political stories are a staple on TV newscasts. It’s rare that you won’t find a story involving government, or a political party in the first five minutes of a local TV newscast.
If there is a recent downside to spending on editorial content on TV, it was the announcement by Bell Media that it was laying off a large number of sports reporters and anchors on CTV stations across the country. This past Saturday I was surprised to learn there's no longer a sports report on the 6pm news on CTV Edmonton on either Saturday or Sunday. I must have missed the news release where CTV announced it was shutting down sports on the weekend at several stations.
Newspapers Are Still "Go-To" Sources
Newspapers have to be happy with the survey as well. There’s been a growing perception that people, especially younger ones, have totally abandoned newspapers as a primary source for news. Many have, but when it comes to politics, newspapers are obviously still a huge factor.
That doesn’t really surprise me. Despite the cuts Postmedia has made in the last couple of years, daily newspapers still offer pretty good content. There’s less investigative work, and not as much local content, but overall the product is still pretty solid. Newspapers still offer good political coverage.
Let’s not forget about weekly newspapers. They still enjoy high readership levels, mainly because they contain stories that people in smaller communities can’t get anywhere else.
I did media and social media presentations for a provincial association this past Friday and we talked several times about the need to build relationships with weekly newspapers because of high readership levels.
More Readers Don't Always Mean More Success
There’s one important point to consider though. While the survey is important in terms of what media Albertans are using to follow politics, it has nothing to do with the financial position traditional media outlets are in.
When it comes to daily newspapers, the picture isn’t bright. Postmedia’s financial issues have been well documented.
The key point to understand is that the biggest problem facing Canada’s daily newspapers today has very little to do with metrics like readership and circulation. It has everything to do with advertising dollars. Newspapers are facing enormous competition from digital advertisers, especially Google and Facebook.
It’s become terribly easy for small businesses to use digital advertising. During my presentation last Friday, I demonstrated YouTube Director, a YouTube app that basically helps people put together videos on their business. It does the editing and allows people to choose music and graphics. Within minutes they can have a professional video completed for free.
Of course, YouTube will then ask you to upload it and use Google Ads to promote your business. For a cost of course - perhaps a large cost depending on a number of factors.
How successful digital advertising is may be another question, but people like options and they also like control. Digital advertising can give them both.
Traditional media, including daily newspapers, may still be winning the battle, but that doesn’t mean it will eventually win the war.