7 things PR pros should know about the shifting media landscape

The Vocus State of the Media report was unveiled recently and it shows a media world that is evolving. Here’s how it affects public relations.

Vocus became a Twitter trending topic Wednesday afternoon, thanks to its State of the Media report and webinar.

(You can download the report here.)

The report paints a media landscape that continues to struggle but is using the Web—and especially social media—to evolve.

Although fewer newspapers shut down in 2011, they continue to shutter bureaus throughout the world and launch fewer titles, according to the report. Papers also continue to cut staff.

“Two years ago I thought newspapers had trimmed as much as they could, but it appears it will continue until they have skeleton staffs,” David Coates, the managing editor of newspaper content, said in the report. “Newspaper staffs are getting leaner and younger these days. The ink-stained wretch has been replaced by the digital savvy geek.

“We are seeing more and more editors in their 20s and 30s who have a grasp of the importance of digital and social media.”

A major trend among newspapers and online-only outlets is the shift to local content, according to the report.

For magazines, 2011 was similar to 2010 in that the industry saw more titles launch than fold. Layoffs among magazine editorial staff were “moderate,” the report said. And iPads are not, as some suggested, killing magazines. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“The irony is that the iPad seems to be saving magazines as people need content to consume on the device,” Rebecca Bredholt, Vocus’s managing editor of magazines, said in the report.

TV stations are sharing resources and using their websites to fill the gap left by shrinking newspapers, whereas radio—dubbed the great survivor—saw listener gains in all four quarters of 2011, according to the report.

Perhaps most promising for radio is that Arbitron, the medium’s primary measurement tool, noted that the number of listeners age 12 and older grew by more than 240 million per week, a bump of more than a million compared with last year.

Bloggers, meanwhile, are partnering with many mainstream media outlets, the report said. Growth in the blogosphere was primarily in the consumer sector, including blogs about domestic life, parenting, and cooking.

All these changes mean (at least) seven things for the PR industry:

Media outlets want more than just text. They’re looking for pictures and video, the report said. But your content should continue to mind the three Cs: clear, concise, compelling.

The old rules for pitching still apply. Just because social media is forcing old-media companies to evolve, that doesn’t mean they should be treated differently. “Despite the fabulous changes in technology, all the old rules of being a human should still apply,” said Rebecca Bredholt. “Treat people as individuals, which is what editors and reporters are. Be polite: Introduce yourself first, and ask questions later.”

Buy an iPhone and/or iPad. The media is creating content for these platforms; you should know what that looks like and how it works.

Don’t pitch using social media. Just 2 percent of journalists prefer pitches through social media, while 80 percent want them to come through email. Enough said.

Do get to know them on social media platforms. Follow a reporter’s or editor’s tweets. Take note of what they’re sharing. And unless you know them personally, don’t “friend” them on Facebook.

Make it easy for reporters. Shrinking newsroom staffs and a growing online field of media outlets mean that journalists are more crunched for time than ever before. “The easier a PR professional can make it for a reporter to write a story, the better chance that story will be written and a good working relationship between the PR pro and reporter will blossom,” Ben Coates said.

The best time to pitch a TV newsroom is between 8 and 9 a.m. That’s usually before the editorial staff’s morning meeting. Unless it’s breaking news, pitch your story at least a few days or a week in advance. Also, TV journalists want to speak with real people who are affected by your product or organization—not just your spokesperson or CEO. (This is underscored by this week’s Edelman Trust Barometer.)

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