Thinking outside the (cable) box

Why you should look to local news to fill your TV audience gaps

Thinking outside the (cable) box

Why you should look to local news to fill your TV audience gaps

For many, getting a message on a national cable news show is the holy grail of communications. And, as a television news lover and broadcast media relations specialist, I understand why. It’s a highly efficient way to reach a sizable audience. But if you want the right audience to really hear what you have to say, coming from a trusted source, it’s a good idea to start thinking outside the box – the cable box that is.

Broadcast news remains the number one source for news and information among audiences, according to the Pew Research Center. And, research shows audiences are more likely to trust their local broadcasters than a cable source.

Think Local

Across the country – in large media markets like New York, mid-sized markets like St. Louis and smaller markets like Eugene, OR – audience shares for national cable newscasts consistently trail behind that of local television news. And in some markets, local radio has a lead on cable news, too.


From updates on neighborhood incidences to the weather to national headlines, local news coverage doesn’t skimp. In 2016 alone, local TV stations dedicated an average of 5.7 hours to news programming each weekday, according to Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media July 2017 report.

Local TV: A More Trusted News Source

Though audience size is important, it isn’t the only reason you should consider pitching local news outlets. Trust is a big factor, as well.

Americans generally trust local news sources more than national ones. About 82 percent of respondents to a Pew survey said they had some or a lot of trust in local news organizations; 76 percent had trust in national news organizations.

When asked to compare the two sources, Americans gave local news an even stronger lead. A poll from summer 2017 by digital media and survey company Morning Consult and news organization POLITICO asked registered voters, “Who do you trust more to tell the truth?” Forty-one percent chose local news outlets and 27 percent chose cable news. The other 32 percent didn’t know or had no opinion.

A 2017 study by television advertising seller Videa found similar results: 62 percent of respondents trusted local news more; 38 percent trusted national news more.

A Data-Driven Local Strategy Delivers a National Impact

So, with the hundreds of local television markets available to you, how do you choose which to focus on?

That’s where data comes in. Using information about your target audience is key to identifying the markets where they’re concentrated. At Subject Matter, our team draws on information from government data sources, such as Census Bureau studies, and private sources, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings, to create comprehensive visual representations of where your target audience is located.

Here’s how we do it:

  • First, we start with a mix of data sources to zero in on the location of your target audiences.
  • Then, we cross-reference the locations with the Nielsen Designated Market Areas.
  • Finally, based on the overlap, we develop a list of markets where you want your message heard the most – this becomes our roadmap to deliver your story.

Through this strategy, which is customizable for each and every one of our clients, we reach the living rooms of not just the most people – but the right people. The ones who believe your subject matters, through a medium they trust.

For more information on media tours, check out Joy’s previous post here.

Joy Burks Joy leads Subject Matter's team of media specialists, overseeing the strategic development and tactical execution of media outreach initiatives. In nearly a decade of work at the firm, she has built a deep understanding of what's required for successful media campaigns, from framing strategy to overseeing logistical details. Joy established Subject Matter's in-house broadcast production studio and has managed a range of productions. Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.