Reaching customers in an increasingly fragmented media landscape is harder than ever with complex digital ad-buying systems, upcoming changes to privacy restrictions and sceptical audiences worried about the cost of living.
However, there exists a group of Australians that is not only engaged with news content but trusting of the brands which advertise alongside the content and are more receptive to it than any other segment.
That group are regional Australians who read their local news.
In a survey of more than 6,000, ACM discovered that readers of local news not only tend to be happier but are also more likely to engage with and buy from businesses that advertise within local and regional media.
The ACM Heartbeat of Australia study not only delves into how regional Australians view local media but also their outlooks and concerns for their own futures and that of the country.
“This study shows that without a regional independent voice, our communities have no trusted way of staying connected. Relevant news and information are vital for the sustainability of our regional towns,” said ACM managing director Tony Kendall.
Regional Australians understand that local news needs the support of brands. As a result, they will reward those brands with their business. In this context, advertising in local news has never presented as good an opportunity for national brands and never has it been more necessary.
Regional versus metro
It’s no secret that most of the stories people read in the national news these days are negative.
Last year, ACM’s initial Heartbeat study found that physical and mental health were major concerns for readers coming off the back of the pandemic. Now, the cost of living is top of mind for consumers.
“When the second annual survey was conducted we’d just been served 10 consecutive rate rises so, unsurprisingly, in addition to the cost of living there is also widespread concern about financial debts, energy costs and housing affordability,” said ACM research director Alex Mihalovich.
While these concerns remain for local news readers, they are exposed to a level of positivity that metro and national news readers aren’t.
Local news keeps communities connected in a way that the national press simply cannot. By keeping that community connected through local journalism that highlights the good going on in their area, the community is enriched socially, culturally and financially.
“Local news speaks directly to its audience. Whether it’s talking about local events, the newest cafe in town or the next big housing estate, our audience can instantly identify with what they are reading and this is where connections are built. A connection that local businesses and national brands should be leveraging” said Kendall.
That feeling of connection to the words they read in a paper, hear on the radio or even see online, is a powerful force for brands — but only if used correctly.
Localising the story
All good journalists know that the key to getting readers hooked is to make a story relatable and localising it to the audience. The same can be said for advertising.
“Regional Australians who typically consume more local news than their metro counterparts feel that advertising and information about local businesses is more relevant to them because our advertisers tailor their messages,” said Kendall.
“It’s also a pretty clear message to national brands that when they advertise in local news they should localise their message as much as possible to ensure relevance and, in turn, cut through.”
ACM readers trust the local news they read particularly highly (67 per cent, 16 percentage points higher than non-readers) — an important point to consider given that the company operates more than 100 news brands across the country.
The ACM Heartbeat of Australia study found that 78 per cent of local news readers felt as though reading local news gave them a greater sense of community connection. This connection also leads readers to have a more positive outlook on society and, therefore, they become a more active buying cohort.
“Whether travelling, renovating, buying furniture or home appliances, ACM readers have a higher propensity to act in the next 12 months” said Mihalovich.
While it might seem as though local brands have the biggest opportunity with advertising in local news, there is a huge opportunity for national and international brands to extract serious results, as well.
For example, regional Australians are more likely to travel domestically than metro — 63 per cent versus 51 per cent. For Australia-based tourism businesses, restaurants, hotels and everything else connected to that industry, there is a clear benefit to advertising in the local press, even if you might be on the other side of the country.
Similarly, regional Australians are more likely to buy furniture and home appliances than metro residents (33 per cent versus 26 per cent). Most significantly, regional Australians are more than twice as likely to renovate their home compared to metro residents (24 per cent compared to 10 per cent). These statistics make it clear that local news readers are important customers for some businesses.
In fact, two-thirds (66 per cent) of Australians recalled seeing a national brand advertising in their local newspapers, a level of recall that few other media can muster.
In a fragmented media market, advertising in regional media can bring fantastic results to brands and there are few better places to get started than with ACM.
ACM Heartbeat of Australia is a partnership between ACM and the University of Canberra.The study was conducted online by Chi2 research. The total sample of 6,316 was made up of 1,000 respondents from the Dynata panel (quoted for younger metro based respondents) and 5,316 ACM readers. Results weighted by age and gender to ABS data. In field 28 March – 6 May, 2023.
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