Beyond Cable: New Ways To Communicate With Your Citizens

by Bob Duthaler, Executive Board, Chair

JAG held another session at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference this past November.  I was lucky enough to do this session with Geoffrey Belinfante.  Our goal was to illustrate the different emerging trends and communication tools to effectively engage residents beyond a traditional access channel.

In our presentation, we spoke about the following: 

•      Social Media Video Trends

•      Social Media Video Statistics

•      Cord Cutters

•      Power of Video Samples

•      Local Franchises and Statewide Franchises

•      Benefits of a Local Cable Channel for Municipalities

I am going to go through a few of these with you now, but I urge you to watch the video which will be linked at the end of this article to see all the topics we discussed, the video samples and the questions from folks just like you.


One of the latest and fastest growing trends is known as “Micro-Videos”: the rise of short video content and the platforms that cater to it (namely TikTok and Instagram Reels).  With our lives becoming increasingly more fast paced like the world around us, viewer attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and the need for short, “snackable” content is getting bigger and bigger.  Because of this viewer viewing trend, we also need to think of ways to create video content that works well on TikTok and Instagram Reels.  TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2020 and 2021 and currently has 1 billion monthly active users.  According to a recent GenZ TikTok users survey, Instagram Reels is essentially interchangeable.  87% of them agreed with the statement “Instagram Reels is basically the same as TikTok”.  Plus, Reels receives 22% more engagement than regular video content.  2023 is the year for stations to start leveraging the power of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and easy-to-consume micro-videos in your video marketing strategy.  I am giving this much thought and plan on producing these short videos throughout the new year in 2023.


The vlog industry has been growing rapidly and will likely only continue to explode in 2023.  According to research, over 44% of Internet users watch vlogs every single month.  Vlogging is just continued proof of what marketers have known for years — storytelling is the best way to connect with your audience.  Through vlogging, you have the opportunity to position yourself (the creator, the brand, etc.) as the main character of your story, allowing your followers to connect and engage in a more personal way.  From a marketing point of view, this form of video is absolutely necessary if you want to maximize your success in 2023.  I believe this format does need some strategy and plan to make it a success, along with scheduled releases.

Live videos are still proving the way to go. 

During the pandemic, live videos skyrocketed in popularity with a lack of face-to-face interactions.  Live video became essential for hosting events and connecting with people in a time when our worlds became smaller than ever.  Even as we’ve begun to return to a more connected way of life the demand for live video content is only growing.  Users engage at a higher rate when the video content is live.

It can be even more effective if you announce your livestream beforehand and use your live video to make a big announcement or reveal.  We already began to master the art of going live, now it’s time to take it to the next level as a marketing tool.

Social Media Statistics.

In a recent report, Cisco reported that video would account for 82% of all online traffic by 2022.  Users engage at a higher rate when the video content is live.  On Facebook, statistics show that viewers will watch live videos for 3x longer than pre-recorded videos.  The average length of Facebook’s top 100 videos is 3 minutes and 23 seconds (Newswhip, 2020).  52% of American adults use Facebook to discover the latest news. (Forbes)

Here is an interesting fact for all of us video purists, users also like square videos – they are watched 35% more frequently than landscape ones.  But vertical videos are loved with 6-9 times more engagement than square videos. They also get 13.8% more visibility.  I’m still shaking after reading those statistics.  So how do we take advantage of that?  Sometimes the answer is in the promotion of an event….Going live on FB with a square or vertical video showing you setting up for an upcoming event, and even including a link in the post that will take viewers to your full live coverage later that can be in a glorious, 16:9 full HD format!

What about the cord cutters? 

We all know our priority is cable, the reason we have a channel.  But viewing habits continue to change and we need to satisfy all. In a CNN article in August 2022 the headline was:  The Cord Has Been Cut. Streaming is more watched than cable.  For the first time ever, Americans are watching more streaming TV than cable, according to a report from Nielsen. The milestone has long been expected as viewers change their viewing habits and ditch their pricey cable bundles for cheaper alternatives.  In July, streaming amounted to 34.8% in the share of total TV consumption, a growth of nearly 23% within the past year. Cable and broadcast viewership both dropped year over year, with the former amounting to 34.4% and the latter making up just 21.6%.  Both fell around 10% compared to July 2021.  I will add in my personal point on that one stat, there is now football (Pro or College) in July.  Cable sees a spike in viewing during football season.  So how do we keep up with cord cutters?  The good news is that Municipal Access Channels are now appearing on ROKU, Apple TV, Amazon Fire and other platforms as well.  (see my Wish List article for more thoughts on this).

I hope this article gives you pause to think about the various trends and ways to reach out to your community, get your message out there and broaden your reach beyond the cable channel.  The session was videotaped and will be available soon.