“Local” or “not local” is the wrong way to think about news and entertainment on the radio.
When it comes to information, for example, there are two flavors – one kind is relevant to me, my family, or my neighborhood. The other kind is entertainment.
Here is an overview of consumers’ “circles of interest”:
At the center is ME. Then my FAMILY. Then my NEIGHBORHOOD.
Why not a circle for city (i.e., “local”) news?
Because the only city news that matters to me is the kind that affects me, my family, and my neighborhood (with the singular and important exception of local sports). After all, the expression “not in my backyard,” does not mean “not in my Nielsen survey area.” It means “not in my neighborhood.”
Why not a circle for state news?
Because news from the state capitol is only relevant when it affects me, my family, and my neighborhood. That’s why my public radio friends appear shell-shocked when I make the intentionally outrageous statement “there is no such thing as state news.” But what I really mean is that state news does not exist beyond what’s relevant for me, my family, and my neighborhood. Actually, it MAY exist – but it’s only noise.
Why not a circle for national news or world news?
For the same reasons. How is what’s happening in Washington relevant for me, my family, and my neighborhood? And when it IS relevant, it ceases to be national or world news and becomes news about me, my family, and my neighborhood.
By the way, you don’t decide what’s relevant, Mr. News Gate-Keeper – your consumers do.
The less relevant the information is for me, my family, and my neighborhood, the more that information must be salacious or outrageous or provocative or inflammatory or exciting in order to matter to me.
In other words, the more it must be entertainment.
This is why horse races get more attention than issues during the run-up to elections. The linkage between issues and me, my family, and my neighborhood are dense or tough to explain or non-existent. But a horse race is dramatic and exciting with winners and losers. It’s high concept! It’s fun! It’s entertainment!
It’s why controversial issues like medical marijuana get ratings.
It’s why “selfies” at Nelson Mandela’s tribute capture an entire news cycle.
It’s why the War on Christmas is the one we talk about even when Americans are fighting and dying in wars that are not metaphorical.
It’s why content can be relevant for me, my family, and my neighborhood no matter where it comes from.
Or else it’s just another form of “entertainment.”