As such in the mainstream media, new communication technologies and online platforms that have entered our lives since the beginning of the 2000s have led to a radical change in news production dynamics of the local media (Gürcan & Bekiroğlu, 2007) . One of the biggest obstacles encountered in this respect is the lower digitalization level of local media compared to nationwide or alternative media outlets in Turkey (Değirmencioğlu, 2011). This problem, which is especially associated with lack of technical equipment and qualified personnel, prevents local media outlets from keeping up to date and reaching wider publication/broadcast & audience coverage (Dalgalidere & Çelik, 2014).

Considering this, a comprehensive research was conducted to understand the digital publication/broadcast capacity of local media outlets during the desk-based and the field researches, including the following stages:

  • During the desk-based research, which is the first stage of the research, it was first detected whether local media outlets have an official website. Then, by examining the official pages of the outlets with websites, basic institutional information such as the type of publication/broadcast, contact information and foundation year of the outlets were obtained.
  • The scope of this data obtained during the research was expanded by asking survey questions about digital publication/broadcast capacity (level of activity, publication/broadcast content, visitor rate, etc.) to outlets during the field research.

The data obtained during the desk-based research process reveals that many local outlets are actively involved in digital media channels. According to the data, 82.6% of the 3240 local outlets reached in the search have an official website in which they publish/broadcast digital news content. In this regard, research data shows that the level of digital publication/broadcast in local media is relatively high.

However, the point that should be underlined in this evaluation is that the criteria used in measuring the digitalization capacity is based on quantitative data. In other words, since the digital publication/broadcast capacity examined in the research is based on quantitative criteria (such as website ownership, level of activity, publication/broadcast content categories and visitor rate), this does not contain qualitative analysis of the usage level or quality of digital publication/broadcast channels (such as the number of digital news in local media, publication/broadcast frequency or authentic news content & coverage). Also, other recent studies focusing on news content also reveal that digital news production in local media is limited in terms of original content, and that almost no authentic local news is produced in many cities and regions. In this respect, this data obtained in the Local Media Database research indicates that local media outlets have developed capacity only in terms of transition to digital publication/broadcast types and digital media mediums.

Digital News Platforms in Local Media

Considering the distribution based on types of media institutions within the data obtained, digital news platforms come to the fore as the second type of media institutions with the highest number of outlets after local newspapers. According to the research data, 1124 of the 3240 local media outlets (34.6% of all identified outlets) perform as a digital news platform through their official websites. The fact that the number of digital news platforms found to be publishing locally within the scope of the research is quite broad, this reveals a significant finding that local media is trying to deliver its news in digital formats as well.

Another prominent finding among the research data is that the number of digital news platforms in the local media has been increasing over the years. According to the survey data, the foundation years of digital news platforms publishing on a local scale continue to increase over the years, starting from 2000. Especially the significant increase in the number of digital news platforms established after 2010 draws attention to the level of digitalization that has developed in the last ten years in local media.

4.3.2. The Website Ownership and Digital Publication Capacity in Local Media

The results of the research show that the level of publishing digital news is quite high among the traditional print publications (local newspapers and magazines) and audiovisual broadcasting outlets (local television and radio stations). According to the data, 2688 out of 3240 local outlets (82.6% of all identified outlets) have an official website. 82.9% of local newspapers, which is the majority of these outlets, publish local news through their official websites in addition to their printed publications. Similarly, the majority of local magazines (54.2%), televisions (62.5%) and radios (44.9%) have websites on which they publish digitally under the same institutional name. When the digital publication level is evaluated among the publication/broadcast types, it is seen that the website ownership rates of local newspapers (83.8%) and local television (61.8%) stations are higher than other media types in local media.

Another striking finding in the study is that the website ownership rate differs depending on the regional distribution of local media outlets. For example, the regions with the highest number of local newspapers according to the research results are Marmara (376 outlets), Mediterranean (328 outlets) and Black Sea (234) regions. However, when we look at the distribution of website ownership rate between regions, it is seen that the website ownership rate is higher in local newspapers in Aegean (89.4%), Central Anatolia (85.9%) and Eastern Anatolia (85.7%). This difference, which is seen between regions where local media outlets are located densely and regions with high website ownership rate, is similarly observed in local magazines, television and radio. In terms of all publication/broadcast types, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia and Southeastern Anatolia actually are the regions with fewer local media outlets, although the website ownership rate of outlets in these regions is generally higher than in the regions with more outlets such as Marmara, Mediterranean and Aegean. Therefore, these results show that website ownership does not develop at the same rate in the regions where the number of outlets in the local media is the most, on the contrary, regional difference is an effective dynamic on the local capacity of digital publication.