Three PR Takeaways From Pew State of Media 2011 Report
The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual "State of the Media" report yesterday and on the surface, it describes an improved business environment after "two dreadful years." Peel it back a couple of layers, however, and there are some stark statements about the future of the industry and who is in control.
For the first time, Pew's research shows that more people get their news from the web than from print newspapers. Television still sits on top as a source, but it's only a matter of time before online news takes over the number one spot. Accordingly, online ad revenue now surpasses newspaper print ad revenue.
This is resulting in "job substitution" vs. job loss, as new media institutions like AOL, Bloomberg and News Corp.'s Daily ramped up their original news gathering staffs and offset jobs lost in newspapers. To be sure, newsrooms are very different -- they are smaller with journalists responsible for more coverage areas, yet more adaptive and adept at interactive presentation and reader engagement. We here see that based upon our interaction with journalists every day.
What was most telling to me about the state of news media was this assertion:
In the 20th century, the news media thrived by being the intermediary others needed to reach customers. In the 21st, increasingly there is a new intermediary: Software programmers, content aggregators and device makers control access to the public.
This is referring to the fact that news institutions rely on aggregators like Google News, social networks like Facebook (I learned about this report from a News Feed update via my Facebook network), and device makers like Apple to deliver audiences and content. Nearly half of Americans (47%) get their news from mobile devices, and there's a reason we're seeing new ventures like Daily focus entirely on the tablet and e-reader formats.
The fact that these players share in the revenue now and make news media followers and not leaders means that the economic and business model problems will linger. However, the outlets that will be most successful are the ones that know how to deliver content to be optimized for online consumption on many form factors.
Another key aspect to this research is data that debunks the notion that coverage opportunities are shrinking and therefore is threatening PR. And this leads to three important takeaways for PR:
1. Help media do their jobs in 2011 -- I reference above how newsrooms are filled with more adaptive journalists, bloggers and writers that know they need to leverage visuals and video to increase views, sharability and engagement. They also want more and more interaction with readers in the form of questions and deeper insights that expand the horizon of the story. PR people need to go way beyond supplying journalists/bloggers with a text-based pitch and news release. When planning news, make sure an infographic and short video are on the list of assets developed. When developing these, think about making sure they are optimized for viewing on a smart phone or tablet.
2. Think about leveraging curation -- According to the study, at the Huffington Post, only 18 of the 70+ editorial staff members do original reporting. The rest "aggregate and curate." If you follow NPR's social media correspondent Andy Carvin, you'll see that he is doing "real-time curation of news" by retweeting people in Japan, Libya, Egypt and other places where news is happening. The opportunity for PR people here is to work with your spokespeople and thought-leaders to enable them to participate in online dialogue through blogs and social networks and to share interesting information based on what they see going on in their markets (i.e. talk about more than just their companies). Those that do this well will be followed by the news curators and their stuff will be used as editorial source content.
3. Goodbye circulation and impressions, hello Likes, re-tweets, comments -- No longer should companies ask if coverage they are getting will appear in print. PR people should stop looking at circulation figures, "impressions" and reach. This research shows that stuff doesn't matter anymore. What does matter is how well a story or blog is packaged with multimedia (that you can supply), how compelling it is based on how much insight your spokesperson or subject matter expert brings, and how much the content you create is valuable to editorial curators. What matters is how many "Likes" or retweets a story on your company generates, how many comments readers leave and how this can be correlated to key business goals.
The Pew report is always mandatory reading to know how the changing state of news affects what we do. What other takeaways do you see?