Gulf South Index: What Are We Watching and Why it Matters

METAIRIE – You’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” The latest report from the Gulf South Index, meanwhile, demonstrates that you are also what you watch, read and share.

Consumers, the report shows, gravitate toward those places that feed them views that align with their own. As a result, they may be gathering news and information from sources that are not necessarily seen as reliable.

Here are some takeaways from the report:

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The Information We Consume

Of the 47% watching news when working from home, nearly two-thirds of these consumers are viewing local news, with a similar percentage of people also tuning in to national cable news, according to an August report by the Nielsen Company.

The number of adults now getting their news on YouTube is pegged at 26%, according to a September report by the Pew Research Center. Of these identified YouTube news channels, just under half of them are independent, built around a specific personality and not necessarily affiliated with an external news organization.

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This trend of “new” personality-driven news channels, such as those seen on YouTube, is important to pay attention to because these channels are more likely to try to advance their own agendas and often cover topics with a specific message theme. Companies and organizations that interact with the public through the media and other platforms are competing more and more with media sources and outlets that do not share the same quality standards as traditional news organizations. As a result, the opportunity for misinformation and public confusion rises.

Where We Get Information

During an average day, adults in the U.S. spend nearly 11 hours watching television or online, splitting time evenly between watching the tube and engaging on our devices, according to an August report from the Nielsen Company.

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Time watching streaming services, such as Netflix and Disney+, has increased to 142 billion minutes each week in the second quarter of 2020 from nearly 82 billion minutes weekly during the same period in 2019.

In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, 79% of consumers are watching more streaming TV. Viewers here consistently trail behind the national average in watching live television. Only 68% are doing more of that. Nearly 71% are spending more time on social media, up six points since March and higher than those nationally, according to the Gulf South Index.

Social media is a vital tool for traditional and “new” media sources alike to share their messages. Therefore, consumers are turning more and more to their social feeds to get news as it happens. This creates a conundrum because not all of the information on these platforms isn’t necessarily trustworthy.

Where We Get Our News Affects the News We See and Trust

A whopping 84% of Americans believe the news media holds “a great deal” or “moderate amount” of blame in the creation of political division in the country, according to a recent story by Poynter. This is a problem for all of us because the outlets we have historically trusted the most to give us accurate information are now seen as part of the problem. This lack of trust pushes people further into their own “news bubbles,” as coined by Morning Consult.

People search out certain information sources that they trust, and are inclined to stick to those sources.

“As the news gets more intense and more information cascades down on us, we tend to fill our news bubbles with sources that agree with ideas and thoughts we already have,” said Marc Ehrhardt, president and partner of The Ehrhardt Group. “Unfortunately, too, the trends show that those news bubbles are including a greater number of ‘new’ media sources and this creates a higher chance for the spread of misinformation and confusion.”

Local news always has been and continues to be a stand-out for the right reasons.

In places like New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Biloxi and Mobile, consumers feel positive about the job local media does in keeping them informed. Similar numbers say they are confident that their main source of local news – TV station, daily newspaper or news website – can get them the information they need.

When asked what their local news media does well, audiences across the Gulf Coast point to:

  • Providing news that they can use daily
  • Reporting news accurately
  • Offering transparency about their reporting

Here’s the Good News

“Americans have not lost sight of the value of news,” says the Gallup/Knight Foundation’s American Views 2020. “Strong majorities uphold the ideal that the news media is fundamental to a healthy democracy.”

Whether they are informing the public about an issue or opportunity or selling an experience, companies and organizations with interests in the Gulf South should be aware of who their customers and target audiences are watching and listening to get their information. It’s getting more specific and targeted each week.


The Gulf South Index is a cooperative project between The Ehrhardt Group – a public relations, content, issues and crisis firm – and Causeway Solutions, a nationally recognized research and data analysis company, that are both based in the Gulf South.

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