The Real Threat to Local Broadcasters

Here is the latest essay in the ongoing series “TV News in a Postmodern World.” This is a follow-up to the last essay, “Investing in a Local Future,” and examines the battle for the soul of the “local” franchise for media companies.

As broadcasters gather in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters annual meeting, they do so with what I believe is a false sense of understanding about what’s tearing their business model apart. The disruption isn’t multiple platforms from which to sell their wares; it’s the Personal Media Revolution — as Glenn Reynolds so beautifully puts it, “The triumph of personal technology over mass technology” — and beneath it, the increasing drain on local advertising money by outsiders.

The shift of ad dollars from broadcasting to the web has been confirmed in many ways, but the shift hasn’t significantly impacted the bottom lines of local broadcasters. Why is that?

To paraphrase Ross Perot, “That sucking sound you hear is local ad dollars going to businesses with no investment in the local community.” Moreover, as smart technology companies up the ante in the local INFORMATION space, local media companies are in danger of losing this franchise altogether. Overstated? Perhaps, but it’s dangerous to underestimate players who have proven they know what they’re doing and aren’t afraid to invest a few dollars to experiment. Read on:

The Real Threat to Local Broadcasters


  1. broadcast journalists can loathe all they want about that today’s broadcast model is broke because there is little effort in treating the internet as a priority when it comes to newsgathering.
    the reality is, most tv stations won’t invest the money, time, or people needed to make the internet a more integral part of the newsgathering business until two things happen.
    the first is news directors don’t get bonuses based on the number of hits on a website. and second, until nielsen can find a way to gauge hits on a web and translate those numbers into real people for adverstisers the internet will be treated as a second class citizen in most newsrooms.

  2. And in the meantime, Kevo, they’re losing eyeballs right and left. I haven’t gotten a single scrap of news from television in almost 7 years. I’m not the only one. They can keep fighting over “the bottom line” as they define it, but the real bottom line is that they’re fighting for eyeballs that are increasingly online and away from the teevee.

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