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September 04, 2011

To cater to a consumer base that continues to increase its online media consumption, many traditional local media properties such as newspapers, TV and radio stations have made the shift to digital. But when seeking out local information and news online, consumers are less inclined to turn to digital editions of local newspapers, radio and TV stations, preferring search engines instead, findings from Pew Research Center suggest.

Overall, most US web users still rely on traditional media for their daily dose of community news and information: 49% tuned in to local TV news stations, 33% relied on radio broadcasts and 22% read local newspapers daily.

But today’s average consumer gets their local info both online and offline. September 2010 data from the Newspaper National Network (NNN) showed 69% of US local news consumers used a mix of traditional and new media sources, compared to 30% who used only traditional media. Given the boom in tablet and smartphone adoption over the past year, today’s percentage of mixed-media news consumers is likely even higher.

For digital news, one might expect users to seek out familiar sources like local TV and radio stations. But on a daily basis, only 11% turned to local newspaper websites, 10% to websites of local TV news stations and 5% to local radio sites.

Online consumers were most likely to refer to search engines (28%) such as Google or Bing every day for local community news—a rate higher than that of US web users who read local newspapers for such information. Only 18% of web users surveyed said they had never used a search engine for local community news.

Though it’s likely search engines sometimes function as navigational tools for finding local information on traditional media websites, the data suggests such information sources often remain untouched. The percentages of internet users who had never turned to digital versions of local newspapers, TV and radio stations were 38%, 37% and 64%, respectively.

For local business information, search engines and portals like AOL and MSN were used by the most internet users, beating out local print newspapers and common word-of-mouth referral sources like friends and family.

Search engines were also the top resource for finding information on local restaurants and bars: 38% of online consumers said they used search engines for this reason; local print newspapers were the second most-used resource, cited by 26% of respondents.

Maintaining a search engine presence is a must for local businesses looking to drive traffic to their websites and stores. In addition, media companies should look to optimize and expand their search engine presence to drive additional traffic to their web properties.

For more information at http://www.emarketer.com

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