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How “Personal” is your News?

Traveling around the country, I’ll often hear stations – particularly AM stations with a heavy news posture – talk about the importance of local news to their information equation.

Yet at the same time, my research repeatedly shows that once you get beyond traffic and local sports headlines and weather, “local news” per se is one of the things listeners – even information listeners – want least.

And that’s fundamentally because information fans tend to be interested in one of two things: What fascinates or entertains them and what impacts them personally.

And neither of these things are explicitly “local.”

Take a peek at TV news for proof: Subtract sports and weather and traffic and national headlines offered up through a local filter and the local “angle” on all things national and what do you have left? A three-alarm fire, a DUI for Lindsay Lohan, and a new baby Koala at the zoo, that’s what.

For better or worse, the stuff that passes the fascination/entertainment and personal impact tests is more likely to be national than international and more likely to be international than local. That’s how our world works.

And what’s particularly personal isn’t even necessarily about what’s in the headlines, whether those headlines are from around the corner or around the world.

As Republican pollster Frank Luntz says, “If you ask Americans which story they would more likely read in their daily newspaper, the carnage in Darfur or how to keep their teeth permanently white, they’ll choose teeth whitening almost every time.”

This is not about “fluff” per se. It’s about being relevant and personal.

Not “the biggest stories of the day.” Not local or international or national. That’s not how information lives in our heads. And it shouldn’t be how it lives on your station.

You can view the news as something medicinal that needs to be administered (i.e., “we have a responsibility to communicate…”) or you can view it as something you expect to draw in listeners who are looking for fascination/entertainment or personal relevance.

The key for you is to understand what’s personally relevant and impactful for your audience, and deliver it better than anybody else in the right quantity.

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