Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A new breed of news hound that has taken a big bite out of the profitability of newspapers and magazines is now gnawing at the market share of local television news, new research shows.
Viewership of local newscasts is declining as 18- to 49-year-olds increasingly consume news and information from their phones, tablets and laptops long before the evening news goes live.
"The day of people turning on the 6 o'clock news to find out what happened during the day is gone," said Mark Toney, senior vice president with Smith Geiger, a consumer market research firm. "Local television news needs to be serving consumers that get their news off of three screens" — a phone, computer and television.
TV executives around the nation and in Utah are responding to the trend of multi-platform news consumption, according to The State of the News Media 2013 report released last week by the Pew Research Center.
Eight out of 10 local TV stations said they routinely fed news to television, Internet and mobile platforms, which Pew said was a substantial jump from the 70 percent that said they took a three-screen approach to news the previous two years.
The Pew report noted KSL.com as an exception to newspapers' dominance of online media. The website of KSL television and radio was the top local media website in the country for the second straight year, according to The Media Audit's annual rankings released last year, with two-thirds of Salt Lake City adults visiting the website at least once over a 30-day period.
In February, KSL.com continued to dwarf all other Utah news sites attracting 12.2 million visits, with 8.6 million visits to the news pages. Second was deseretnews.com with 2.2 million visits, which doubled the next highest website, SLtrib.com of the Salt Lake Tribune, according to Experian Marketing Services and Omniture.
Both KSL.com and deseretnews.com are operated by Deseret Digital Media, under the umbrella of Deseret Management Corp., which owns the Deseret News and KSL.
Utah's oldest broadcaster is leveraging the reach of its website in a strategy to become a 24/7 news source through its television, radio and digital media that carry the KSL brand beyond its current dominant role and position in Utah and into parts of Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming as well.
"Our absolute commitment is to provide news where people want it," Tanya Vea, executive vice president of news and cross-platform development for KSL, said. "We are reaching more consumers than any news provider in this market, period."
According to Scarborough Research, which measures audience engagement across media properties, KSL's TV, radio and internet outlets reached 42.5 percent of Utah's adult population from August 2011 to July 2012. By another measurement in that same time period, Utahns engaged one or more of KSL's news products more than 2.6 million times.
Delivering news through multiple media is a strategy that TV executives, consultants and academics agree is critical for the long-run survival of broadcast news given the changing habits of news consumers.
"Our biggest challenge is to be screen agnostic and provide an opportunity for people to see us not only on TV but on their iPad and iPhone and want to have our brand in those three areas," said Kent Crawford, general manager of KUTV, which currently has the highest TV ratings in the state, but one of the lowest visited news websites.
The Pew report included a 2012 survey that found almost one third (28 percent) of those younger than 30 said they watched local TV news, down from 42 percent in 2006. Viewership in the 30- to 49-year-old age bracket declined 5 percent during that same period.
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