Hyperlocal|August 8, 2011| Author: Kim LaCapria|Tags: ,

Study: Local News Sites Fail on Multiple Levels, Here’s Why

If you’ve ever had to rely on local news sources for information on a story relevant to your location, you probably are well familiar with the failings of many regional news outlets on the web.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where local news sites often fail to pull it together and and impress or even serve on a basic level their captive audiences. Digital media brand research firm knowDigital released a study today that explored the struggles old media is encountering when adapting to newer mediums.

The study used focus groups and one-on-one meetings with users of both traditional and new forms of media to drill down on what’s causing difficulties in converting viewers to visitors. Of the results, knowDigital president Sam Milkman said that a failure to understand their target demographic is a common failing among local news sites overall:

“Most online news sites have failed to take ownership of the images that are most important to online news consumers… These sites would benefit from a greater understanding of the images that matter most to their target consumers—whether it’s top headlines, traffic, weather, sports, deeper analysis, local events or some other offering—and greater focus on these attributes both on the sites themselves and in how they are marketed.”

The study made some key observations about common weaknesses when local news attempts to engage a web audience. An overriding focus on pageviews over visitor engagement was cited as one of the contributing factors, as well as failure to fully flesh out sites to compete with dedicated online news properties.

Perhaps the most interesting observation is one failing seen even on a national news level- repurposing content not produced strictly for the web, making the assumption visitors would like TV content available on the internet by default. (Ever open up a CNN tab at work and have an iReport come blaring out of your speakers just as the boss walks by?)

Lastly, slow user acceptance of online news media was mentioned as a reason local news sites remain challenged in grasping a wider share of local news audiences. Is your local news site worth visiting, or is it only a last resort for school closures or weather updates? Do you find the study’s observations to be accurate?