The rise of digital media has come at the expense of print journalism. In particular, the “de-newspaperization” of America is a clear reality to those of us working in media relations. When I became a media relations professional 13 years ago, print reporters typically had one beat, and had the time to develop deep stories on a variety of aspects within their topic area.
Since then, though, the ranks of newspaper reporters have significantly shrunk, along with their readership and their employers’ profits.
The advertising dollars that once kept newspapers afloat have migrated to digital platforms, along with a major share of the American public. The Pew Research Center’s recent report on trends shaping the digital news landscape showed that half of Americans cite the Internet as their main source for news. The number is even higher (71 percent) for younger Americans, ages 18 to 29, who have largely abandoned print media and get their news primarily through mobile devices.
The result has been near-skeleton staffing in even the larger print newsrooms. The reporters who’ve stayed in newspapers typically cover three to four beats, often focusing mainly on breaking news.
Still, studies show that newspapers maintain an advantage when readers want a deeper understanding of a topic. The Pew Center 2013 State of the Media report shows Americans will turn to traditional newspapers to read stories that friends and family have referenced through social channels. So the credibility of a true newspaper journalist remains strong, as does the clout of major newspapers.
So what does this mean for media relations professionals?
Reporters Rely More Heavily on Us for Info & Content
In conversations with newspaper reporters, more and more tell me that their teams are stretched to the limit. One reporter at a national daily newspaper informed me last week that she no longer has a team; her team is “me, myself and I.” This makes our role as subject matter experts more critical than ever. We need to be available – even in our off-hours – for reporters’ questions. We need to deftly package stories so reporters can easily see “why their audience will care.” And we need to provide multiple experts – as well as multimedia assets like photography, video and infographics – to help reporters bring their stories to life.
Think Beyond the Traditional News Desk
While newspapers are making deep cuts in traditional newsroom jobs, they’re investing in their digital teams. Often, the digital/online/social teams work separately from the general news desk or business desk. That means we need to pay separate attention to the digital news-gathering side. We need to tailor content differently for easy application to the digital format. Think more USA Today-style than New York Times. Make your content visually compelling and brief, with strong human interest angles and interactive calls-to-action.
Build Relationships Across Platforms
As media relations professionals, we need to look at all communications avenues to best spread our clients’ messages. The best news for us is that relationship-building remains the most effective method of media relations. We must continually hone that skill and extend it across today’s multiple platforms. We also must be nimble to keep pace with the 24-hour news cycle, connecting our stories to the news of the day and arming reporters with both the information and visual assets to best frame a story.