A content analysis of the Web representation of local commercial television broadcast stations in the United States

Pi-yun An

Abstract

The number of local television broadcasters' Web sites increased rapidly after 1995; by 2002, over 1,200 local television stations in the U.S. have established a presence on the Web. The decade of the 1990s produced few studies (e.g. Bates & King, 1996; Niekamp, 1996; Bates et al., 1997; Pines, 1999) that attempted to gain an understanding of how local broadcasters coped with the convergence of traditional and computer mediated technologies. Previous studies indicated that promotion has been the dominant form of content on local television station Web sites, with news in text form also prevalent. Conversely, the more interactive and personalized features of the Web have been observed in only a handful of sites. However, the rapid development of Web technology makes the implementation of such features increasingly practical; the traditional broadcasting media showed signs of improving their Web offerings over the past few years. In order to understand how the U.S. local commercial television broadcast stations have established their identity and deliver content in cyberspace and how they respond to improving Internet technology, this study is divided into two parts. In the first part this study attempts to assess the current state of the U.S. local broadcasters' Web use, particularly the use of multimedia features and interactive mechanisms. The second part of this study examines several possible external factors, network affiliation, market size (DMA), ownership, and type of Web site operation, which might be related to the (DMA), ownership, and type of Web site operation, which might be related to the presentation and structure of the local television station Web sites. This study examined the content and mechanisms of local broadcasters' current Web sites and proposed a local television station's Internet business model, based on the framework Chan-Olmsted and Ha created in 2002. The results of this study indicated that local broadcasters have improved the content of their Web sites, with more local news-related information, greater use of interactive features, and more visual elements. Even though promotion still remains as the primary function of local television station Web sites, it has become clear here that the local television industry is beginning to operate their Web sites more like local information provider, especially for local news and weather.