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Why Supporting Local Journalism Is Good For Business

We need local news more than ever.

The value of trusted local journalism has never been more clear: as trust in government erodes, it is independent reporting that provides the necessary oversight and illumination to inform the public and hold policymakers accountable — local newspapers are responsible for half of the country’s original reporting despite only accounting for 25% of the media outlets.

In times of crisis, we rely on trusted information from local outlets to stay safe and informed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, local publishers have seen a significant boost in readership as information about community response has become essential; many have even dropped their paywalls in service of delivering vital information at the expense of short-term revenue gains.

Despite this surge in value and readership, many local publishers find themselves on the brink of collapse. This year, local advertising revenue could drop as much as 25%, perpetuating and accelerating a crisis that’s been building for years. For vulnerable local publishers already facing an uphill battle, it could spell doom.

To help prevent more news deserts from popping up throughout the country, local publishers need the support of the nation’s biggest advertisers. These high stakes present an opportunity to better understand the connection that local news fosters between audiences and their communities, and whether that same connection can translate to untapped opportunity for national advertisers. We know that supporting local news is good for our world and society, but is it also better at driving business outcomes for advertisers?

Vox Media partnered with the global research firm Nielsen to test this theory. Here’s what we learned:

Local news helps build incremental audiences

In our study, we found that 38% of local news site visitors do not visit any national news sites — meaning a large audience is not being reached by brands who only advertise on national news properties.

National is about scale and awareness, but local is where communities are built

The top three topics read by audiences on national news properties and local news properties are the same: Breaking News & Top Stories, U.S. News, and Politics. However, local outlets differentiate themselves in topics that are likely more intimate to the user: my sports, my events & culture, my places to eat, and my homes:

These results indicate that advertisers have an opportunity to align with a deep connection and sense of personal relevance in local environments.

Local is better at providing relevant content, creating a sense of connection with others, and otherwise making the experience personal

Local news drives local action

Users are more likely to have taken some kind of meaningful action on their local news property versus national properties — actions like signing up for a newsletter, sharing a story, or posting a comment. Local news users are particularly motivated to sign up for additional communications or to take advantage of a promotion, providing an advantage to brands interested in direct response and promotional advertising.

The Opportunity for Marketers

We wanted to know if brands could tap into this deeper connection with local news properties to drive measurable campaign results, so we tested it — and it worked.

The study found that a localized version of an ad (i.e. creative that included the name of the city) in a locally relevant environment performs significantly better compared to a non-localized creative on a national news site. In fact, almost every brand metric we measured was significantly higher among viewers who viewed this localized experience compared to viewers of a national news site:

These findings suggest including Local News sites in an ad campaign not only helps to support vital journalism, but could significantly improve the performance of the campaign. As America faces a series of unprecedented challenges, advertising locally represents an opportunity for companies’ marketing budgets to reflect their values as an organization while building real long-term brand equity with customers.

With this opportunity in mind, Vox Media partnered with the Google News Initiative earlier this year to launch Concert Local — a trusted advertising marketplace that centralizes inventory from premium local media brands across the country, providing a one-stop solution for reaching local audiences at national scale with dynamic localized messaging.

Concert Local is underpinned by the safety, performance, and creative excellence Concert has stood for since 2016. Learn more about Concert Local or get in touch at advertising@concert.io