9 traditional media trends affecting PR

A recent Pew Research study identified continuing shifts in the media landscape. Take note of the PR implications.


You can always count on the Pew Research Center to hit a bull’s-eye when it comes to tracking important media trends. I’ve highlighted nine media trends from their most recent report “In Changing News Landscape, Even Television is Vulnerable” that will impact PR, marketing, and business professionals who depend on traditional media.

The opening paragraph of the report overview sets up the challenge:

“The transformation of the nation’s news landscape has already taken a heavy toll on print news sources, particularly print newspapers. But there are now signs that television news—which so far has held onto its audience through the rise of the Internet—also is increasingly vulnerable, as it may be losing its hold on the next generation of news consumers.”

Think about that for a moment. Newspaper reach, influence, and credibility continues to drop. Daily newspapers try to reinvent themselves. Their business model is broken. The new experiments with social media will not pay the bills and advertisers are unconvinced of the value or resistant to change from what they know.

And TV is next. Challenged by multi-screen users who think nothing of using their smartphone, laptop, tablet, or desktop computer while watching TV—all with the help of a PVR.

The new landscape is changing so quickly that “legacy” media cannot respond fast enough. That’s why these trends are so important to follow.

Digital news surpasses newspapers, radio: Percentage of Americans who saw news or news headlines on a social networking site doubled—from 9 percent to 19 percent—since 2010.

With young, newspapers lack relevance: 33 percent of those under 30 get their news via social networking sites, 34 percent from TV, and only 13 percent from newspapers.

Newspaper free fall continues: Just 23 percent of all those surveyed read a newspaper yesterday. That’s down by half (47 percent) since 2000.

Magazine drop continues: Only 18 percent read a magazine yesterday, down from 26 percent in 2000.

TV stable for old, but tumbling with young: 55 percent watched TV news or a news program yesterday, but only 34 percent of those under age 30 watched TV news yesterday, down from 49 percent in 2000.

Local TV news slips: Local TV news dropped from 54 percent in 2006 to 48 percent in 2012; under 30, and fell from 42% in 2006 to 28% today. Only 23% under 30 watched cable TV news.

Reading still popular: 51 percent enjoy reading though there is a shift to electronic or digital formats.

Digital growing: Of those who read a magazine yesterday, 9 percent read digitally, while 20 percent of those who read a book did so in electronic format. The study noted that 55 percent of subscribers to The New York Times, 48 percent of USA Today subscribers, and 44 percent of Wall Street Journal subscribers read the newspaper on a computer or mobile device. For magazines, 25 percent read digital forms.

Online news is more mobile, or social: 17 percent got news on mobile devices and 38 percent saw news on a social networking site, doubling from just 19 percent two years ago.

It’s this last trend that’s most significant to the media businesses as well as those who still hope to use traditional media to reach consumers.

How media are adapting to the changes

Forbes Chief Poduct Officer Lewis DVorkin hit on the biggest barriers and biggest challenges for traditional media as well as many businesses including PR:

“Journalism in the digital era requires disruptive business models. Dispensing with satellite transmission and truck delivery in favor of Wi-Fi on planes may be part of it. So is finding a scalable model for publishing quality content that satisfies the voracious appetite of digital news consumers. Then you have to match the cost of producing it with what marketers are willing to pay. Most traditional media companies still struggle with century-old, bureaucratic editorial processes better suited for older technology. Many romantically cling to high-cost newsrooms built for a different economic and advertising climates.”

Disruption. New business models. Scalable publishing. Quality content. Cost of production. All of these terms are familiar to not only PR professionals, but nearly everyone in the business world these days.

DVorkin adds a last critical comment:

“What I think is quite important here is this—if the cost of print newsrooms aren’t viable in a desktop world of news (and they are not), then they surely won’t be viable in a mobile world in which marketers are willing to pay even less to reach news consumers then they are on desktops (at least at the moment).”

Survival and success may rest on one other vital component—engagement. Imagine a newsroom where reporters write and file stories and engage and interact with readers. In a limited way, it’s starting to happen. In the newsrooms, it’s occurring reluctantly.

Reporters aren’t all trained in social media. Few enjoy social media interaction with all readers especially on their own time. Many media websites, and their comment sections, are a social media free-for-all. But there’s no question engagement will loom large in the future.

The PR implications are obvious. Optimizing your content for social media channels and mobile are critical. Producing content with more video and visuals is key.

Shorter, faster, more targeted communications rule the future. Integration of social media channels is important and engagement is critical.

With this backdrop, social media and mobile are just two tantalizing replacements as our media habits quickly change and adapt.

Which traditional media, or for that matter PR firms, will be left standing? I’m optimistic PR firms are adapting fast enough. “Old” media? Not so much. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments below.

Stay informed on media and society trends by following the work of the Pew Research Center. Follow them on Twitter, browse their website or subscribe to their research newsletter.

Jeff Domansky, APR, is a PR and social PR strategist and CEO of Peak Communications. He is author of “PRoactive: The Public Relations Job Hunter’s Guide,” and he blogs at The PR Coach. You can also follow him on Twitter @theprcoach or Scoop.it (PR 2.0 Insight).

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