Media on a local level, the power of proximity
Whatever the local media, proximity and social connection are its main attractions. With a broadcast or circulation area which, at first glance, seems clearly defined along with a specific economy, its dedicated content generally represents its characteristics at different levels according to the media. These concepts are likely to evolve. Through its studies on radio, television, internet and cinema, Médiamétrie paints a picture of these media locally.
Local media: multiple realities
When we talk about media at “local” level, it is not always easy to extract a simple meaning that is shared by all. From an international perspective, local applies to the scale of a country! For some people, it comes down to a sometimes caricatured opposition between Paris and the rest of the country. Guy Détrousselle, Médiamétrie’s Director of local media, says that “the distinction sometimes seems more significant between urban areas and large agglomerations on the one hand, and rural areas on the other hand. However, it does not reflect the complexity and diversity of the dimensions of local media with respect to a viewer or listener”.
Local media includes both association radio stations and publishers of local, independent programmes or publishers belonging to national groups. These are, of course, public service players, such as France Télévisions with France 3, but also experiments like NoaTV in Aquitaine and Radio France with France Bleu. Private groups are also present in the form of local variations of media with a national dimension, as well as with their own brands and identity.
These independent private players are sometimes from groups with a regional dimension, particularly press groups that have become multimedia, such as La Voix du Nord with Contact FM, Champagne FM and other local stations, or the regional DTT channels Wéo Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Wéo Picardie; we can also cite the Ouest France group and its regional station Hit West, and a local advertising space broker that now largely covers the whole of France, Régie Radio Régions.
Radio groups such as Groupe 1981 and Espace Groupe also have a supply of local publishers and stations with national coverage.
Proximity at the heart of the concept of territory
The public's appetite for local media is strong. This is particularly the case of radio, as demonstrated by the audience figures from Médiamétrie’s Médialocales study. In the provinces, nearly 80% of the population listens to the radio in a day, more than in Ile-de-France, where the figure is 75%. Nevertheless, there are regional disparities. The inhabitants of Pays de la Loire (84%) and Brittany are great radio listeners, while the inhabitants of the PACA region and Occitania are in the low average (75%). These differences have many causes: the socio-demographic profile of the region (workforce weight, average age of population, size of rural areas), the disparity of the local landscape of radio and other media, the weather conditions, the road and public transport networks and finally cultural attachment and identity. In general, listening to the radio is more pronounced in rural communities, where people nearly always need to travel by car.
Regarding regional DTT channels, in 2016-2017 they had 1.3 million daily viewers (over 30 channels measured by Médiamétrie).
The geometry of listening also varies by region; indeed, the notion of “country” or “territory” is crucial for the interest in and the attachment to local media. Therefore, according to Guy Détrousselle “administrative boundaries rarely match the reality of the catchment area of viewers or listeners”.
If we look at cinema, it is not at the level of the content that the proximity is located, since cinema is by nature national, or even international. However, according to the latest Médiamétrie ranking of the 30 most popular cinemas among cinemagoers in France, most of them are local cinemas or cinemas labelled Art et Essai. For Marine Boulanger, Director of the Médiamétrie Cinema Department, “Besides their choice of programming and editorials or their events, one of the attractions of these cinemas lies in their ability to create proximity by making their establishment a forum, a factor of social cohesion”. The Alhambra Art et Essai cinema in Marseille, for example, is the top cinema in France (for cinema-goers attending this cinema), with a score of 9.6 out of 10; a single-screen cinema, the Alhambra has developed many actions with young audiences, and also offers an introduction to film making. The Méliès in Montreuil, the Megarama Garat near Angoulême, the Max Linder in Paris and the Sénéchal in Guéret are behind the Alhambra in the ranking. Some cinemas have a strong appeal thanks to the history of the venue itself. The relationship with the staff, at the counter, or with the attendant if applicable, also contributes to the link that is created with a cinema.
On the Internet, some players with a local positioning achieve good audience performances by relying on the concept of proximity. First of all, through information via the regional online press. The advertising space broker 366, which markets the advertising space of a group of regional press editors and local radio stations, has 32.4 million unique monthly visitors throughout France (March 2019). The service dimension is also important for the Internet in regions with job search websites (for example, the Régionsjob website generates 2.4 million monthly unique visitors), local public services (websites and applications of Cities and Regions) or the “drive” services of retail chains (over 8 million monthly unique visitors).
The boundaries are changing
New technologies and economic needs are changing the relationship between the local and the national. Guy Détrousselle analysed: “Today, the boundary between local and national is fading: on the one hand, national networks develop their local variations and, on the other hand, local players are trying to organise themselves into networks”.
Local and national are no longer opposed, their worlds are linked and converge. Technologies open up more and more access to all media and publishers, regardless of the place, as platforms. Similarly, the advertising markets are complementary, with multi-city and geographic targeting devices.
Some proven models are therefore developing. For example, brands or entities with a local dimension and history form a group by carrying synergies on content and possibly on advertising; this is the case with press groups such as Sud-Ouest, La Voix du Nord, Ouest France, Le Télégramme, etc.
Some go even further and develop brands and networks. For example, the Economic Interest Group Les Indés Radios, which brings together 131 category B stations, launched the “Le Mur du Son”, for viewing and listening to artists being broadcast on Les Indés Radios, the portal for independent radio stations. Another example is the Vià network, which is gradually federating several local television channels.
Conversely, national brands are available locally, whether through advertising or information broadcasts (these include NRJ and Virgin Radio, which place great importance on such broadcasts); another initiative is the current launch of BFM Régions with the recent takeover of the local television channel TLM, which becomes BFM Lyon.
In the cinema sector, some independent cinemas are joining forces to offer common subscription cards. On the Internet, we mentioned above the local advertising space broker 366, which brings together radio stations and regional press titles.
In an economy where advertising seeks to move closer to consumers, the advantage of local media is its ability to offer advertisements for retailers or local services, sometimes even combined with discount offers.
The studies developed by Médiamétrie respond to these developments by targeting areas geographically, while integrating into the economic reality of the national advertising market. The 2018 launch of the Mediamat Local is part of this commitment to offer local players access to the national market; it allows local DTT channels to have access to Médiamat data and to be present in media planning.
Laure Osmanian Molinero