As Hurricane Sandy Showed, 'Higitals' Get Less of Their News via Regular TV
By Robert Passikoff and Amy Shea, Brand Keys Inc. -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/14/2012 2:14:16 PM
Our engagement metrics have consistently demonstrated the differentiation found in those who occupy the news chairs when it comes to driving choice. But today there is this other aspect to how we get our news -- one that, when examined, pinpoints precisely where media and message-sender meets: digital.
It can be persuasively argued that news is one of the categories most impacted by the widespread usage of digital media. Reporters who have used traditional measures of television viewing to evaluate attention paid to news events -- such as the State of the Union speech -- have found themselves eating alone in the cafeteria after linking decreased television viewership with citizens' apathy.
Blind to the completely different habits of the Higitals-those folks who use digital with the fluency and regularity that others have with the TV remote -- such reporters have missed a vital detail: The digitally-engaged don't get their news in traditional ways. They get it when they want it, the way they want it, and indeed do "consume" media events like the State of the Union, without caring much whether Nielsen saw them doing it or not.
Hurricane Sandy brought this fact into sharp relief. Reporters were stunned to find out that for many, what topped the list of most-missed was digital connectivity. Once safe, finding a way to charge their handhelds drove many to the streets in search of a generous neighbor (and there were many of those) who put out an extension cord, allowing those who depend on digital to get and share news -- public and personal. It always serves to remember that old marketing adage concerning features versus benefits: Customers are not really buying a drill; they are buying holes. For humans, no matter the approach, connecting with each other is a primal force. For Higitals, their "drill" is digital devices, delivering the benefit of a hole to see through to the world and their tribe.
The smart news organizations are aware of this dichotomy of traditional and digital-a split whose days are numbered, as digital becomes the norm.
In our examination of what's at the crosshairs of engagement with digital communication platforms and engagement with a.m. news programs, we see that the news shows' own websites reign supreme, making the strongest contribution of any platform. While other platforms also play a strong role, such as mobile apps and online video, Good Morning America, Today and other programs are being evaluated on how well they show up on their website.
"Attention must be paid," wrote Arthur Miller in Death of a Salesman. For morning news, engaging consumers on their sites should have their immediate attention. Nielsen ratings make and keep programs alive, but as consumption habits shift, it may be inattention to digital that is the hidden killer.
Comments in this story are based on results data from the Digital Platform Engagement Study.
Robert Passikoff is founder and president of Brand Keys, Inc., a brand loyalty and customer engagement research consultancy. He can be reached at email@example.com. Amy Shea is executive VP, director of global brand development at Brand Keys. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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