Transformation and Turmoil in Media: Implications for Communicators

Is the News Business in Trouble or Not: The news about the news business has been mixed over the last little while.  There have been a number of events and posts that continue to showcase a media/news market in transition, as well as one that is experiencing an increasingly broad range of new competitors. Many of these changes are driven and impacted by peoples’ use of the Web/social networks and the emergence of smart phones  — both altering how we consume and use news.

While many are concerned for the future of journalism, there is also optimistic commentary.  For example, commentary from Marc Andreesseen, the famed Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist, where he notes he is bullish about the future of news, “I am more bullish about the future of the news industry over the next 20 years than almost anyone I know. You are going to see it grow 10X to 100X from where it is today. That is my starting point for any discussion about the future of journalism.”

If Marc Andreessen is correct about the magnitude of growth in news, and other changes he talks about in terms of how news is created and delivered (and Im betting he is) then PR professionals may also want to understand some of the factors at work in the changing news business.

Hoping this lengthy post offers you some context and resources, as well as a few thought starters.  It has three parts: a section about some of the changes we are seeing that impact both traditional and new media businesses.  The next section looks at some of the information around changes in how we consume and engage with news.  The final section is a few ideas to spur your thinking about what these changes may mean for the practice of public relations. Take your time reading it — its a holiday reflection piece with a lot of links to offer you additional resources.

challenges in the traditional news businessThe Traditional Media, Challenged on Many Levels But Have a Couple Significant Advantages: From a macro perspective, the traditional media businesses are being disrupted on numerous fronts – such as advertising revenue declines; subscription revenue declining as information is increasingly “free”; technology changing how reporters carry out their jobs; technology changing how news is distributed and how readers consume and interact with news content.  The challenges are immense.  Some note the traditional media business has been challenged online for more than 20 years, and they still have not changed.  I am not suggesting that traditional media will leave us anytime soon.  I do think it is worth noting that there is a lot of hard work in front of many of these companies. You may recall for example the leaked New York Times innovation report as one example of the tough times for traditional news organizations.

David Carr of the New York Times is an optimist for the future of the news media.  In an interview with Digiday he notes that Jeff Bezos has brought confidence and financial stability to The Washington Post.  He points out that The New York Times and The New Yorker are making adjustments and doing well in this changed environment.  Metrics are becoming less an enemy and more friends to traditional media companies.  He also points out that The Times move into video is going well, although no one has cracked that code yet.

Traditional media outlets have several key advantages in the changing marketplace.When a story from The New York Times is shared in social media, the New York Times brand carries significant weight and credibility.  The brand credibility of the New York Times means that people are likely to click on that shared link and read the story. This is so true that a recent Wired Story on the new media start ups noted, “we don’t learn about the world from The New York Times, we learn about it from the Times stories that our family and friends share.”

Traditional media outlets also have relatively large and loyal customer bases who are more likely to visit the media website, and are also more likely to spend time and view more stories when they are at the news media site (Source:  Both the strength of the brand and propensity to click on shared links combined with a loyal customer base that spends more time with the online media site is the advantage of being “must reads”, as John Battelle recently posted.

The New Media Start Ups: The business of news has always involved competition for the reader/viewers eyeballs and attention.  The fact that competition is strong in the industry is not a new thing to media businesses.  As the recent must read story in Wired notes, the big 3 television networks had to adjust and respond to CNN’s emergence that included live coverage of breaking news.  There was the era when newspapers hired “newsies” to scream out the daily headline to sell more papers.  Today is no different.  Media businesses (the traditional outlets and the new ones) are competing for our eyeballs and attention, even if it is not through a subscription.  Audience size and reach is critical to business success (old and new) of media companies. What is different today is the product itself is iterating at the same time as consumption patterns are also changing.  The barriers to entry have also declined.

The Product is No Longer Media, It is Your Attention: Read this story in Wired. The Web/social media combined with mobile phones are underpinning the changes to product formats, delivery mechanisms and how people choose and consume their information.  In that respect, the media businesses is no longer just competing for a subscription to a product (and as an aside the product today is all forms of media blending print/video and audio).  But the real “product” is virtual and online.  In that respect, the competition for attention and time is really a primary factor. The product itself is no longer a stand alone thing with a specific delivery time. Today our news is available virtually anytime and anywhere, all the time, and on a device of our choosing — attention is what is required to activate that.  People can access news anytime, anywhere, no matter what they are doing — the competition is all about being that source of news which garners our attention. This also impacts how the media business measures and demonstrates audience size/reach/engagement, crucial for attracting business advertising in whatever form that may take.

Who are the New Media: Here is a listing from Pew’s annual state of the media report of the new media, as well as data collected on their staffing levels (February 2014)

new media and staff levels

In addition, here is a quick overview of some of the general interest/business new media and what they say about their position in the market:

Buzzfeed is the social news and entertainment company. BuzzFeed is redefining online advertising with its social, content-driven publishing technology. BuzzFeed provides the most shareable breaking news, original reporting, entertainment, and video across the social web to its global audience of more than 150M.

Mashable reports on the importance of digital innovation and how it empowers and inspires people around the world. It boasts a highly engaged network of its own.

GawkerMedia an independent online news organization committed to truth and honesty in reporting, a little more on the academic and intellectual side than a say a Buzzfeed.  In the recent letter to employees CEO Nick Denton noted, “we will return to our mission: more linebackers with fictional dying girlfriends; less pandering to the Facebook masses. In 2015, Gawker will be the very best version of itself; I will be the best version of myself. We will be bloggers again.”  Gawker and its media properties (Gawker, Gizmodo, Deadspin, Jezebel, io9, Jalopnik, Kotaku and Lifehacker) are fearless and uninhibited, dedicated to putting truths on the internet and out to the world.  This is opinionated journalism. They have a strong audience among millennials

Vox Media is one of the country’s largest and fastest growing online publishers with headquarters in Washington, DC and New York, NY. Vox Media owns and operates sites in distinct vertical categories: general news, sports, technology & culture, gaming, dining & nightlife, shopping & fashion, and design & real estate.  Vox is a general interest news site for the 21st century, which has become the companies most successful digital launch of 2014.

Circa is a pioneer of mobile-first news apps and a visual style that still spreads on the web. Circa enables readers to more easily consume, engage with, and follow the day’s news by delivering comprehensive yet to-the-point coverage in a format tailored specifically for mobile lifestyles. With its signature “Follow” feature, Circa is the first news organization to provide readers with the ability to engage with specific stories they care most about by receiving timely updates as they develop. Rather than trying to read lengthy articles on your phone, Circs simplifies the presentation of news stories distilling complicated concepts into easily digestible cards

Vice News is an international news organization created by and for a connected generation. They bring you an unvarnished look at some of the most important events of our time, and shining a light on underreported stories around the globe. Vice prides itself on getting the heart of the matter with reporters who call it like they see it.

First Look Media is based on the belief that democracy depends on a citizenry that is highly informed and deeply engaged in the issues that affect their lives. First Look seeks to improve society through journalism and technology, to help individuals hold the powerful accountable, build responsive institutions and, most important, shape their communities and what happens in their lives for the better.

Business Insider is a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals. Launched in 2007 by former top-ranked Wall Street analyst Henry Blodget and DoubleClick founders Dwight Merriman and Kevin Ryan, the site is now the largest business news site on the web.

Quartz is for business people in the new global economy. They publish bracingly creative and intelligent journalism with a broad worldview, built primarily for the devices closest at hand: tablets and mobile phones. Like Wired in the 1990s and The Economist in the 1840s, Quartz embodies the era in which it is being created. The financial crisis that recently engulfed much of the world wasn’t just a cyclical decline or a correction or even a bubble bursting. It was a breaking point. And its shockwaves exposed a fundamentally changed economic order with new leaders and ways of doing business.  Our coverage of this new global economy is rooted in a set of defining obsessions: core topics and knotty questions of seismic importance to business professionals. These are the issues that energize our newsroom, and we invite you to obsess about them along with us.

For a more in depth look at Circa, Buzzfeed and FirstLook, see the Wired Story

The Digital News Advantages:

Unencumbered by legacy products and distribution systems, the new media companies focus on several things that are different from the traditional media businesses and advertising models.

  1. They use technology (and app design) in a way that is both innovative and user friendly.  They are free of the traditional broadcast or print formats and able to do things with formats and technologies that garner attention and give people a good user experience.  For example, the Buzzfeed news app for phones is being designed from the ground up with a view to delivering quality content that earns your respect.
  2. They are data-centric and understand what kind of traffic, sharing and engagement their stories generate. The new media outlets “use data to understand what readers want, and how this process drives the editorial strategy — from the way it promotes posts on social media over the weekend to its focus on mobile and how they use this to further drive additional attention.” The new media businesses are constantly tweaking the content and iterating their overall user experience based on data.  In this respect, the business side of the operation and “editorial” are often closely linked and operating in tandem.
  3. Arising out of the use of technology and metrics/social data, many of the new media companies have a focus on news as a service to their readers.  The traditional media tend to operated based on the premise that the editorial team knew best.  The news team generated stories that were worth knowing about were reported factually and fair. That news story was then pushed out the door onto the front page of the paper—online or offline.
  4. The new media outlets, perhaps because of their web incarnation, understand that you and I have a lot of choices to find information on the Web.  Therefore, they understand their competition is not just traditional media but all the information on the Web — and in this respect, they focus their content on what has real value.  Not sure traditional media have figured that out yet.  New Media outlets differentiate what they deliver through the points above but they also deliver content often unique to them — rather than trying to replace other sources.  For example, why publish music reviews when people are getting their music recommendations from Spotify?
  5. The news story is unbundled.  New Media outlets are focused on the individual story, not the newspaper as a whole.  People don’t share, they share a specific story from Buzzfeed.  This opens the door to reimagine how the news is packaged and formatted, for the phone or other social platforms.  Sure, there is front page of the website that sort of looks like the front page of the daily newspaper.  However, the mobile app or the standalone story on another platform may look completely different.  And that stand alone story is much easier to share too.
  6. The new media businesses have a significant understanding about the value of sharing across social networks, so rather than draw you into spend more time on their website, they want to get you out there with their stories.  Although if you spend more time that is a good thing too.

Among the new media companies, Buzzfeed is doing so well, including winning prestigious reporting awards and breaking major stories that the CEO of NewsCorp recently suggested that Buzzfeed is just a passing phase and that their “trash traffic” was not the kind of thing solid businesses would want to be association with.  You know when the traditional business players have a line like that, they are feeling the pressure.

new media growthMoney Flows In: As Wired notes in its recent article about new media and the marketplace, “The media sector is overflowing with capital—as of September 2014 it was the second-largest VC-funded area of the year, after software. Bad boy Vice Media is suddenly nouveau riche, everyone wants a piece of BuzzFeed, and while First Look may only have one funder—the founder—it sure is one with deep pockets. (Plus he’s promised $200 million more.).”  The Guardian reported on new media funding noting:

“Nick Denton, founder and owner of Gawker Media, recently revealed his company has $60m (£38m) in revenues. The man Denton considers his arch-rival, BuzzFeed boss Jonah Peretti, has already seen his 2014 revenues surpass $100m (£63m), and is giving each of his 700 employees an Apple Watch to celebrate. He can afford it: he raised $50m (£32m) in new venture capital this summer, from a single investor, at a valuation of $850m (£541m). And that’s just the start. Business Insider raised $12m (£7.6m) in March, at a $100m (£63m) valuation, after Mashable raised $13m (£8m) in January. Vox Media raised $46.5m (£29.6m) in November, at a valuation of $380m (£242m).Automattic, the owner of, raised $160m(£102m) in May, valuing the company at $1.16bn (£738m). And then, dwarfing all the others, Vice Media raised an eye-popping $500m (£318m), in a deal which valued the company at $2.5bn (£1.59bn). “

Not Just Money, Talent Too: While traditional media have been downsizing and laying off staff, the new digital media outlets have been hiring at a rapid pace.  Among those hires have been many well-known journalists (Jim Roberts from the NYT to Mashable, Glenn Greenwald from the Guardian to New Look Media and Ezra Klein from the Washington Post to Vox Media, as just a few examples).  Other well-known journalists have created their own digital media news business, such a s Nate Silver leaving the New York Times to create Five Thirty Eight and Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher departing company with the Wall Street Journal to create Re/Code, as examples.

Those 30 new media businesses (in the list above) added 3,000 plus jobs. Henry Blodget of BusinessInsider planned to increase the Business Insider editorial staff of 70 by 33% this year.  Buzzfeed employs more than 500 people, including 200 editorial staff and a tech team of 100.  In addition, the new digital media players are also looking at aggressive international growth and establishing foreign bureaus, while many traditional media foreign desks are being closed or consolidated.

New Approaches To Journalism: We see a move by new media companies like Buzzfeed and First Look Media to look to Facebook and Twitter or other social networks, not just as distribution networks but also as networks for journalistic purposes.  For example, First Look Media effort is called “Reportedly” and is an effort to  treat the social networks “as destinations in their own right — and their users not just as passive sources of content or viral link-clickers, but potential partners in committing acts of real-time journalism within that specific social network.” This changes the traditional way information is collected for news and editing processes  This could turn the determination of news content and story creations into a transparent process (not something done behind the editors office walls) that also involves the use of user generated content and involvement.

In some cases, we are also going to see the journalism formatted differently for different social networks.  Buzzfeed is already headed down this path where certain stories are developed and reside only within a specific social network.

The always on nature of the Web, and the always available feature of news in your pocket is very different from the days of a Nightly News Broadcast at 6pm or the morning delivery of the newspaper. The news today is no longer static, but refreshes throughout the day.  This raises questions about how often news outlets refresh content — without making you mad that you get too many alerts, but that you also check the app for new developments regularly.  This need for constant updates and content may also result in new approaches to reporting — where breaking stories are parsed out in “bits” as they occur, rather than the reporter putting together a full and complete article.

Our evolving use of social networks is also altering where we might turn for news updates. For example in the recent storms in San Francisco, while Twitter would have been the place to go for real time input and user reports as recently as last year, Wired reported that in this case Instagram images were viewed as more compelling and interesting than the Tweet stream.

The new media companies’ propensity to understand Web data and metrics of the unbundled story impacts the reporting of news.  Today, the business side of the media companies and journalists increasingly work together to understand the Web traffic patterns. Gone are the days where subscriptions were handled in the business side of media companies and generally speaking reporters reported.  Understanding data and wo is reading what news story is bringing journalist and IT/number cruncher together.  More importantly, it is also providing the editorial team with information that helps them better understand their readers — their interests and needs. Envisage a tomorrow where a journalist will tell a PR person that the data doesn’t support any interest in the story the PR person is pitching.

See below about Medium, while it relates to the business model, one can speculate it may lead to a new media effort in generating in-depth news coverage for smaller audiences

You may also want to check out the Neiman Lab Predictions for Journalism in 2015, just published this week.

New Business Models to Support Journalism? In the new and traditional media businesses we are seeing innovation with respect to what forms of business sponsorship/advertising may be available.  Native ad are being adopted across the industry.  At Buzzfeed, they are applying their mastery of generating shareable content to offerings for business-sponsored content.  Buzzfeed works closely with advertisers/corporate sponsors to apply its’ “shareable content insights” to branded content – video and print — with a premise that there is also more value in brand content that gets shared versus traditional digital and banner ads.

Medium, both a publishing platform and increasingly playing a role as “publisher,” recently enter the market of producing its own content, commissioning articles from established writers.  Medium has hired several journalists, such as Steven Levy long time tech journalist who worked at Wired and Newsweek, as its’ editor-in-chief.  While 99% of the sites content continues to be created by unpaid users of the site, it has been developing vertical topic areas that are curated and written by some former journalists.  As reported by Digiday and GigaOm, Medium also appears to be experimenting with new value propositions as part of its’ business model.  Medium has begun experimenting with company sponsorship of certain verticals where the business also provides some of the content (a native ad format on a “quasi-news” site).  This could be a means to monetize the platform and further enter the business of journalism.  What seems most interesting given the focus on vertical topic areas, is that this new sponsorship effort at Medium may be a precursor to selling business sponsorships on the basis of “smaller” but highly devoted and engaged audience who spends valuable time with the content is of significant value, rather than focusing on a mass audience and reach.

Leaving Medium’s sponsorship approach aside for a second, from an editorial perspective you have to wonder if Medium might plan to turns up the pace and prominence of its publishing operation through the vertical topics of interest. Is Medium embarking on a different new media model?  There is the potential for Medium’s publishing business to emerge as a news operation that produces high-quality, in-depth stories attracting readers who spend more time with content (versus share it or rather than chasing the mass audience). It’s something Communicators may want to keep an eye on.

In a surprise move reported by David Carr of the New York Times, “Facebook suggested to media publishers that they simply send pages to Facebook that would live inside the social network’s mobile app and be hosted by its servers; that way, they would load quickly with ads that Facebook sells. The revenue would be shared.  That kind of wholesale transfer of content sends a cold, dark chill down the collective spine of publishers.”  However, it could be an interesting development in how news is paid for and delivered.

Not Everyone Will Succeed: Not all rosy on the new media front.  For example, The Racket was to be an “Internet magazine that mixed hard-hitting reporting and in-depth features with wicked, Spymagazine-style satire. And the occasional kitten video. But The Racket is dead now. Its parent, First Look Media, put a bullet in it and dumped the body with a short blog post.”  New Digital Media News Businesses apparently sometimes conflict with the personalities and expectations of traditional journalists.  In fact, based on some of the stories it sounds like “change” just was not handled properly in these organizations.  Looking at the the recent collapse of The New Republic, we see a situation where clearly confusion about directions and principles got lost between business managers and the people who create news content.

How we Consume News

The News was a discrete and passive event. It is no longer that: Think about how our news consumptions has changed. The consumption of news used to be both a specific activity and incident in our daily lives.  It was a discrete event. It was an activity that was passive, and relatively “isolated” and individual.   You watched the network news; you read the morning paper; or listened to the radio on your drive to work. If something really stood out you might share a comment with a family member or colleague at work.

News is Now Always On and Interactive: Today the consumption of news is no longer limited to reading the morning paper or watching the nightly news.  In fact, accessing the news doesn’t even require the paper, it is in your pocket on your phone, all the time.  News consumptions is no longer a discrete specific activity…it is always on and consumable, even if in just quick alerts and headlines.  In addition, the news may come to us through our social network connections or we might share news with our social connections.  News consumption is always on and it is social, not us alone consuming. In fact, because we may share news or find news through social connection, it may also include our personal or a friend’s commentary — making it even less isolated and individual than in the past.

Globally, people increasingly turn to the smart phone to get their news and Facebook is at the forefront of that. Nieman Lab reports that “37 percent of survey respondents said they access news on a phone at least once a week, and 20 percent said they primarily accessed news via mobile devices. But the percentage of readers who actually pay for news has remained stagnant… 60 percent of all respondents said they use Facebook, and 57 percent of those who use Facebook said they use it to consume news.” One of the more surprising trends found in the report was the amount of news shared through private messaging apps, such as WhatsApp. Another interesting finding is that when it comes to news most global news consumers spend more time getting their news via text — traditional articles and lists rather than watching video ( See also The Pew Journalism Study on social search and visits to media websites).

As the New York Times notes, “Facebook is at the forefront of a fundamental change in how people consume journalism. Most readers now come to it not through the print editions of newspapers and magazines or their home pages online, but through social media and search engines driven by an algorithm, a mathematical formula that predicts what users might want to read.” That formula uses thousands of metrics including “what device a user is on, how many comments or likes a story has received and how long readers spend on an article.”

Personalized News that we engage With: Increasingly our news consumption is personalized, both through algorithms and our choices.  This underscores the importance of the unbundling of stories (noted above).  Today, our news consumption relies less on one single and complete publication or an evening news broadcast.  Instead we are gathering our news stories throughout the day, collecting a story here and a video there  — some of it because of the news app on our phone alerted us to something or because a friend or family shared a news story on Twitter or Facebook.

In addition to news being more personalized, Pew’s recent journalism report found that we go beyond simply and passively consuming news.More than 50% of us now share or repost news stories, images or video and 46% discuss a news issue or event online.  Engagement with news is part of the social news experience.

consumers engage with news

And We Like these Changes believing they deliver benefits to us: A survey this month by Pew’s Internet group notes that most Americans believe that cell phones and the Internet are delivering benefits in “learning, sharing and diversifying the flow of information into their lives.”  And those benefits are delivering value in terms of us being informed about products and services to buy, national and international news, our health and fitness and popular culture.

americans use web to deliver benefits

Implications for Public Relations/ Corporate Communications

As noted previously, the public relations business has a significant focus on, and relationship with journalism and media. Understanding the turmoil in the media marketplace at a minimum should help us better understand a key stakeholder.  Perhaps understanding their marketplace can also point to considerations and adjustments we may need to make in the practice of public relations going forward.

It’s More Nuanced Than Simply Brands are Publishers, Media Do Not Matter Anymore: A recent study about the inter-relationship between journalism and public relations, concludes that with all the changes confronting the traditional journalist and how people access information the PR professionals have gained “power” in this new environment.  The report notes that the “brand as publisher” has resulted in Public Relations telling its own stories and winning out over sound journalistic reporting.

If I thought that were the case, I would not have researched and written this post.  We could all go home.  Publishing brand content on the Web is a complex consideration, especially if the content lacks traction and/or connection with a community.  Im not sure I can point to a brand that has the kind of investment in content and content apps that delivers news the way some of the old and new media organizations are. Second, there is, and always will be, significant value in third party reporting on business – especially when that third-party is considered legitimate, with expertise and has credibility.

Thirteen Thought Starters: When I look at the changing news marketplace and some of the dynamics at play, I have a number of oughts about the possible implications and wonder about things we as Public Relations professionals might take away from it all.  Im betting you could add another 13 and Id be happy to have you do that on your own or in the comments.  Lets take a look at some of implications for the the practice of Public Relations:

  1. Use of Data to Adjust/Iterate Content and Messages: Do we know how our public relations content does on the Web.  Are we using that information to iterate? Think about your corporate news room on the Web or other pieces of strategic information about your business.  Does it look good on a mobile device? How long do people visit? Do they share it? The new, and increasingly old, media companies have a maniacal focus on data and metrics to understand which stories matter, how they get shared, etc.  They adjust content, placements and more on this information and learn from it.  While in the past, data was subscriptions and handled by the business side of the house, today the Web analytics and content are interconnected.
  2. The News Media Mobile Apps and Websites could be the source for reimagining the Business Web Presence: Your website and content might benefit from someone taking a look at the news medias’ increasingly sophisticated websites and mobile apps in terms of design, mix of text/video/image content, etc.
  3. Have you reviewed the new media outlets and added the appropriate new news outlets to the key media for your business and organization? You might think some of the new media outlets are inappropriate for your business stories.  Think again.  Maybe brainstorm some wacky and fun ideas that would still be good for your business.  Maybe not.  Have you established relations with the beat reporters; do you understand their new needs – so you start to pitch relevant stories.
  4. Should your media metrics and measurement take into consideration the number of times that next big media story is shared? If many media outlets look to this as a measurement, shouldn’t you? How do you report on the media story views at a media website? Should you consider other measurement changes, for example a move to time spent with your content or time on your site versus clicks?  Do you need to spend more time or even have someone from web analytics in the IT department assigned to corporate communications to really get a leading-edge take on web metrics to inform PR?
  5. News and Social media are inextricably linked. Does your PR team function that way or are media and social silos?  Should that change?  Before you pitched your latest story to media did you think about whether it was a story that would be shareable? Are there aspects of your business story that are very shareable…are you telling those stories?
  6. Have you thought through what the PR team can do to facilitate the sharing of media stories? Sure post it to Twitter, but what about a strategic and ongoing effort that connects the PR team through ongoing “public” (and socially enabled) relationships with key stakeholders.
  7. Are you using online data to support story pitches to media? Could that help build a case for an interesting story? See new media and journalism above with the reference to a reporter telling you the data doesnt support interest in your story. Just be careful and don’t use data in the wrong way
  8. Does the unbundled story have implications for how you need to approach news with journalists? Im frankly not sure…
  9. The News as service is an interesting concept. Can you articulate or provide data that supports how your next media pitch is actually a service to readers? Taking the concept a step further, could the PR team articulate the business as service in an ongoing way – within and external to your business.  Should it be able to do so?
  10. News is personalized and interactive, constantly updated. How do we factor these kinds of changes into how we think about the potential news we push out from the communications team. If Marc Andreessen is correct and news grows 10X to 100X from where it is today + the current environment requires constantly updated news sites/mobile apps, does this mean the thirst for business news is going to increase exponentially – creating an even bigger “news hole” than what occurred with cable TV.  Should that be a consideration in our media relations efforts and where does it take us?
  11. Previously I had posted about Buzzfeed’s emergence as a legitimate news outlet that should not be under-estimated.  That post includes several thoughts on specifics related to how media relations professionals may want to consider new developments with respect to their responsibilities.
  12. Given that new media often has a “differentiated voice”, sometimes even an opinion (see Gawker, or even this tweet from BusinessInsider ), are you prepared for that surprise negative news story? Most likely it will break in social media which means you need a social crisis plan and your organization may need to move at the speed of social.  Im also betting that the PR and media relations skills and approach to the new media outlets requires a complete re-thinking of how communicators will want to handle this.  
  13. Perhaps this post and these 12 thought starters do not really matter at all. The changes in the media business are not positive and there is nothing to learn from a race to the bottom. Really, for PR pros it should be business as usual and who knows what happens to journalism.  To quote Michael Wolff, the USA Today Columnist on media, from a post in Digiday this week:

 “The underlying implication is that these digital people are kind of fools. This digital ambition is wackadoo. The conclusion we’re coming to is that digital media is entirely, only, solely, completely a traffic game. There is no other model. If that’s true, there is a whole set of other implications, essentially lowest-common-denominator implications…. Now digital media is the wasteland. There’s nothing there. A deluge of crap. … That’s an odd thing about digital media. Essentially it gets invented on the basis of news and information. In truth, media itself is always about entertainment. At the least, news and information are the tail. The creators of digital media are not news people. It ultimately is going to handicap you when you’re building a media business. …There’s this conceit that technology is the future. Tech companies are valued at a higher rate, and all the other shibboleths we could go through as to why you’d want to describe yourself like that. But technology doesn’t do anything other than make processes more efficient. Which can be transformative. But it can’t create media. People don’t ultimately develop a passionate relationship with efficiency. The media business is necessarily a non-digital experience. Digital is about reproducing something so it’s exact. Media is about making something original…. The best journalism functions with discrete audiences. There’s no such thing as a discrete audience anymore. If you are fundamentally a tech company à la BuzzFeed, journalism is going to suffer. I think journalism has always had to carve a difficult path. 

Hoping this post provides grist for some reflection and maybe even new initiatives to deliver even better communications for business.  As the world in which public relations/corporate communications undergoes significant change, how we adjust is an important question — if only for our own professional development.

Happy Holidays!

4 thoughts on “Transformation and Turmoil in Media: Implications for Communicators

  1. Fantastic piece, Richard. You’ve put so much thinking and research into it. It’s well worth the time to read it and the accompanying links (reminds me of a long article in the NY Times.)

    Thank you for sharing your considerable insights – it gives me lots to ponder going into the new year, that’s for sure. And really, this post should be required reading for everyone in PR.

    Have you thought about releasing it as an ebook?

    1. Thanks Martin, I really appreciate the comment and feedback. No e-book, I think Ill just let it live here. I think it is important that we (pr and comms folks) think about our customers too….understand the marketplace they work in, their stresses and strains. But also learn from it to stay relevant and useful.
      Hope you have a festive and happy holiday season

  2. Great piece, Richard, well worth the read and well worth returning several times as one thinks over the many issues and opportunities arising from the new news media landscape. Obviously an essential read for your committed PR pros and communicators, but I think there’s also much food for thought here for the more purely business-side folks, at least the digitally-inclined among them. I”m particularly struck by the Medium model of “selling business sponsorships on the basis of ‘smaller’ but highly devoted and engaged audience who spends valuable time with the content…, rather than focusing on a mass audience and reach.” Reminds me of Chris Locke’s prediction back in 2000 (Gonzo Marketing) that big businesses would seek out efforts to serve emerging micromarkets, sponsoring them to polish their reps and build legitimate credibility, and ultimately business, within them (i.e., the micromarkets). Hasn’t happened all that often since 2000, but maybe now the business landscape is more fertile?

    1. Ken, thanks for the feedback and for sharing. I’m thrilled that you think beyond PR there is “food for thought here for the more purely business-side folks, at least the digitally-inclined among them” I do too — even in the implications :-).
      As you know, the development at Medium just emerged this week. Some of what I noted here is speculation on my part. However, I agree with you it is an interesting possibility and one to keep an eye on as it reflects a very different approach to how things are going generally.

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