The news media landscape continues to undergo crushing change. Ad revenues are down for television, print and radio. News print circulation has eroded. And online news revenue hasn’t filled the gap. Learn more about what this means for communications and marketing professionals.
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The New Realities Facing News Media
It’s grim and it’s getting worse. Revenues have dwindled. As a result newsrooms have grown smaller and there are fewer journalists to seek out and report meaningful news.
What does this mean for your news release? Ten years ago a news release could still find its way to a relatively fertile environment of healthy news outlets and well-fed reporters. Now, once your news release crosses the wire it enters a barren wilderness where journalists and news media are literally starving (or going bankrupt). In this Darwinian environment only the most newsworthy of releases survive to be picked up.
What this means for you as a communications and marketing professional:
- Your news release must be newsworthy and compelling;
- Putting out a news release that is not newsworthy is the same as “crying wolf” – the media will quickly learn to ignore you; and
- No amount of “pitching” your boring news release is going to help.
When Guerrilla Marketing was first published in 1983 by Jay Levinson, many of his tactics were based on the premise of a healthy media environment. This is no longer a valid assumption, and you as a marketing professional must shift your tactics accordingly.
Most communication departments are getting used to being pitched on a nearly constant basis by previously credible news outlets that are now offering coverage if you:
- Advertise with them; or
- Allow them to solicit advertising dollars from your list of vendors. (This violates privacy and anti-spam laws in certain jurisdictions)
Paid-for coverage is just another indication of how desperate many news outlets have become.
You should avoid paid-for coverage. The biased nature of this type of coverage is obvious to your audience and will probably just damage your company’s credibility.
The Death of Accuracy
“Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true–except for the rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge.”
– Erwin Knoll, editor, “The Progressive”, 1973 to 1994.
Unfortunately, Knoll’s Law of Accuracy has never been more true today. But before we blame journalists and reporters, let’s bear in mind the harried existence they now lead. They must move quickly from story to story and rarely have the opportunity to do as much background as they would like.
You can help mitigate inaccuracies with a consistent media engagement strategy that focuses on education.
Be prepared for inaccuracies. When they do happen, certainly reach out to the reporter, but handle your conversation with kindness and diplomacy.
While radio seems to be fairing better than television and print, it remains to be seen how the media industry will evolve given the pressure it is under. We are seeing more syndication from news agencies such as Reuters and the Associated Press. Perhaps credible news can survive through these global news aggregators and producers. However this also comes with great risk. Local viewpoints will diminish. Smaller groups will be under-represented. And the truth of our news will be carried in the hands of fewer and fewer people.
A healthy democracy depends on a free press to inform its electorate in a balanced and accurate fashion. We are now beginning to see what happens both socially and politically when our media can no longer support a healthy population of journalists and reporters to seek out and report the news.
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