Surge in audiences for local media presents opportunity for brands

Keith Donaldson
Chief Executive at JICREG

It’s no understatement to say that we live in truly unprecedented times.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our society combined with the major challenges that climate change presents have caused fundamental shifts in almost every aspect of our lives and will continue to do so.

One clear trend to emerge has been the rise of localism and an increased focused on community.

Newsworks’ Come Together research with Flamingo and Tapestry earlier this year showed a resurgence in the importance of community as people spend more time at home and turn to their neighbours for support in difficult times.

This is reflected in media consumption habits.

Published last week (18 November), new audience data from JICREG Life is Local - the audience measurement currency for local media - shows that consumption of trusted local journalism has surged over the past year. 

In digital, local news media audiences are up by 17.9 per cent on last year with 37.6 million people a month now consuming local media online.

Across both print and digital, 42 million people now consume local news media– a year-on-year uplift of 7.7 per cent.

During the pandemic, more young people have turned to local media on mobile, with 10.9 million people aged 15-34 viewing local media content on their phones each month.

The result is that there now exists an unprecedented opportunity for brands to start a much deeper and more engaged conversation with their audiences.

A conversation based on the key insight that life is more local than ever before.

Local media delivers both huge scale – 42 million readers a month – and the ability to target right down to the postcode sector level. 

But, as we move forward into unpredictable and uncertain times, local targeting will be only part of the story. 

Brands that want to engage with consumers in a truly meaningful way will have to demonstrate that they can be trusted.

Launching a major Advertising Association report into public trust in advertising last month, then AA president Keith Weed said that trust is essential to delivering better returns for businesses.

Advertising has an essential role to play in rebuilding public confidence as we recover from the effects of the pandemic, and trust is essential to fulfilling that role. 

“A new course is set: Trust is a Must,” Weed said.

High levels of trust are one of local news media’s key characteristics. Our journalists are trained to a very high standard and their journalism is subject to the law of the land, a tough self-regulatory regime, and various editorial checks and balances.   

It’s therefore no surprise that local news media content is trusted so highly.

And, crucially for brands, is the key insight - seen time and time again through various studies - that the characteristics of a particular medium are reflected on the brands that choose to place advertising with it.

All the evidence available leads to the inescapable conclusion that local media is the best place for brands to appear.

It delivers the unique combination of scale, local targeting and high trust levels which will ensure success for advertisers brands who choose to invest in local media.

The power of local media to connect advertisers with their audiences is one of the key drivers of success for Government’s ‘All Together’ ad and branded content campaign which has been running in national and local titles throughout the pandemic.

Brands must take note from the success of this campaign which has leveraged the key strengths of news media so effectively.

As chief executive of JICREG, my job is to deliver a robust audience measurement currency which brands and their agencies can rely upon when buying local media.

As we move forward, I hope that we will see more advertisers coming forward to find out what local media can deliver for their businesses.

I firmly believe that local media has a crucial role to play going forward and I urge advertisers large and small to consider this carefully when planning their campaigns.