Trust in local media strong, demand growing, says Pew's Jesse Holcomb

By Ricky Campbell | Sep. 30, 2016

Jesse Holcomb

Newsgathering audiences are increasingly mobile and social, have great distrust in national media, but believe local media does a decent job informing them on relevant information, Pew Research Assistant Director of Journalism Research Jesse Holcomb said at the LION Publishers 2016 Summit at Columbia College in Chicago Friday.

Holcomb, a repeat speaker at the gathering of local independent online news publishers, has been with Pew Research for nine years. He pointed to studies showing a strong interest in local media – about 75 percent of U.S. adults say local news does a decent job keeping them posted – and that pathways to delivering news are now overwhelmingly screen-driven. While television still owns 80 percent of people who prefer to watch news, half of the coveted millennial audience prefer their news online.

Half of U.S. adults say they gather news via Facebook, Pew found.

Advertising, of course, is following suit. TV revenue is strong. Digital advertising is growing, but it isn’t evenly distributed. Newspapers have had the worst year since 2010, with both declining readership and declining revenue.

“The best thing to take away from all of this is if you ask people in general about a category – local media or national media -- …when you ask people trust-related questions, it reinforces that picture” that local sources are what audiences approve, Holcomb said.

Pew found “strong research” showing growing interest in local news. It found that local government and politics sparks the greatest interest (73 percent), followed by crime (70 percent) and health (67 percent).

The data points toward an optimistic future for online local publishers, provided they can sustain local trust and develop revenue. Otherwise, the distrust Pew found in media – greater than corporations, banks and labor unions – might follow the national media trends.

Check out more entries in our 2016 conference blog »