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“The COVID-19 Societal Impact Project,” a study conducted by The Whitman Insight Strategies Initiative and Creative Circle Media Solutions, examined how the global pandemic has affected the feelings and emotions of local media consumers.

Respondents conveyed they have a higher trust in local news for information about COVID-19 compared to national cable news and social media channels.

“People are starved for content and connections,” said Bernard Whitman, president and founder of Whitman Insight Strategies, a strategic consulting firm that conducts polls and market research to advise corporations, political leaders and issue-advocacy organizations. “That’s why community media have so much to gain. You are already part of the community and people feel like they know you or they should know you.”

Additional findings show readers are fearful, leading them to crave credible, local information to stay connected with their communities.

“The good news about our research is that local and community media are trusted at a much higher level than national media,” said Bill Ostendorf, president and founder of Creative Circle Media Solutions. “We keep seeing polls that give media a low ranking. In this survey, ‘the media’ got a 52% trust rating but local media earned a trust rating of 82%.

The study shows 63% of respondents feel afraid. In some cases, they are afraid for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. Others are worried about their careers and job security. These reasons, and more, are why consumers seek reliable information from local media.

To fill voids for local publishers, Family Features offered a vast amount of content on our editors site. A special section for COVID-19 content was added early in the pandemic with topics including wearing masks, working from home, going back to school safely and more. Editors also sought our eye-catching food and recipe content to give their readers tips for cooking at home. As the pandemic progressed over time, travel articles have started to come back showing readers how to travel safely or simply enjoy staycations. Even pets have been addressed with content showing how to adopt or live with your pet during a pandemic.

“We have an opportunity to provide new kinds of content,” Ostendorf said. “Better content. If we create more engaging content now, we can change the way they view newspapers and how they value us.”

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Cindy Long

Cindy Long is Family Features’ Media Relations Manager. She works with a network of more than 10,000 editors to help fill the food, lifestyle and home and garden sections of their newspapers, magazines and websites.