Where Have All The Publications Gone?

Amanda Windsor
By Amanda Windsor

For much of the 20th century, print journalism acted as the primary news pipeline for much of the country. Consider some of your favorite movies or television shows pre-1990, just about every single one has at least one scene with a character sipping their coffee, face hidden behind a splayed out newspaper.

And, if this character was brilliant, or part of the upper echelon of society, their morning read might include multiple publications such as: The New York Times, LA Times or The Atlantic. For some of you, these scenes might hit home, evoking memories of your own childhood or daily ritual. Despite this, long gone are the days of the corner newsstands, newspaper hawkers and delivery boys.

The advent of the digital age has had a massive impact on the vast majority of industries for the better, however, for print publications this was not the case. Rather, the Dot Com era acted as a harbinger of doom for most publications, because of the fundamental shift in the way we consume media. In fact, some experts speculate that we are witnessing the slow but steady extinction of all print media corporations.

Even for those corporations that have pivoted their business initiatives with a focus on digital media, they still face an uphill battle in the fight to make the news profitable. Thanks to social media platforms and digital media outlets such as blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook, among others, the speed and ease at which information is passed from person to person is not only instantaneous, but predominantly free in most cases. This increase in competition has made it harder and harder for both print and digital publications to not only compete, but to monetize their offering and remain profitable as well.

As you might imagine, companies have responded to their declining bottom lines. Just this week, news broke that Ziff Davis will buy digital publisher, Mashable, with plans to lay off 50 people. Similarly, last month BuzzFeed laid off 100 employees after missing its revenue goals, totalling about 6 percent of their workforce. In May, Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper publisher, made the decision to layoff 60 staffers from 15 different newsrooms. Similar layoffs occurred at Conde Nast, which cut 80 jobs across the country, including positions at Allure and GQ.

To further combat diminishing revenue, they reduced print frequency and completely eliminated Teen Vogue’s print circulation altogether. This trend of cuts continued in June when Time Inc., the largest print media corporation in the world and the parent company of titles such as: Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and PEOPLE, was forced to make layoffs across the board in response to continued underperformance in print and digital media.

In reaction to the 8% decrease in first-quarter revenue, Time Inc. cut its global staff by 300 employees in one fell swoop, accounting for approximately 4% of Time Inc.’s 7,450 employees. This was not an isolated event. When writers from DNAinfo and Gothamist, New York City’s leading local digital media outlets, voted to unionize, their CEO, Joe Ricketts, decided to shut the sites down, saying: “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.”

What This Means To Public Relations Efforts

Even before the gradual waning of traditional media sources, it was extremely difficult for public relations experts to secure a journalist’s attention. Now, as newsrooms continue to shrink in size, or possibly even disappear altogether, it becomes even harder to vie for that coveted media attention.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital for public relations professionals to be precise, targeted and hyper-relevant as their pool of potential media targets continuously dwindles, and competition continues to increase. Keep your client and brand on the media’s radar with the following tips to help you stand out and be as effective as possible.

Research The Editor You’re Pitching

Now this one might sound like a no-brainer, but I cannot stress its importance enough. You can have the best pitch in the world and still fall flat on your face because you pitched the wrong person, or did not tailor your message to suit what they are looking for. Do your research, study their website and their recent articles. Leverage social media to help you further discover the type of stories they run, the tone of those articles and audience responses to those stories. If they utilize vendors or third-party experts, consider what different information you will need to deliver in order to pique their interest.

Begin With Your Story

The vast majority of journalists are pitched stories all day long. They are constantly bombarded with emails and calls and, realistically, do not have or take the time to thoroughly review each and every pitch. Because of this, it is extremely important that you stand out from the crowd. They want something that will grab their reader’s attention from the get-go; therefore, it is paramount that you give them a reason to want to tell your story.

Why does the public need to know about your company? What problem are you fixing? How are you changing your community? What are you doing different? What makes you unique? This is your opportunity to make an impression, so do not squander it. More often than not you only get one chance, so do everything in your power to make the most of it by differentiating yourself from the crowd of other hopefuls. Think outside the box and leverage your unique customer base to tell dynamic and compelling stories that the media won’t be able to turn down!

Your News Pipeline Is Key

Whether you’re a professional that works in-house or on the agency side, ensure the brand you are working with has a solid news pipeline established. Work together to identify upcoming newsworthy media opportunities, like new services or product launches, then consider the ideal time to push these messages. Note that this doesn’t simply have to be new product announcements or acquisitions, but can be customer survey findings, proprietary data findings, or any other topic that makes you stand out positively.

Leverage Your Existing Connections

We have all heard the phrase: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This statement is very true, especially in the tight-knit media industry. Leveraging your connections and relationships is one of the most important aspects to a PR professional’s success. Do not overlook the value of the connection you already have and do everything in your power to nurture and strengthen your existing relationships with editors and journalists at various publications.

That said, do not treat them like vending machines, only reaching out when you need or want something. If you have a friend who only calls when they need to be bailed out of a tricky situation, odds are, you will view that relationship through a negative lens. You receive a call from them and your natural inclination is to ignore the call. The same goes here. Fruitful relationships are never one sided. Treat your contacts like friends; get to know them on a personal level that does not have to be work related. Keep up to date with their goals, desires, hardships, or life achievements. Send a note, be it of congratulations or commiseration. Building these relationships is crucial to your PR success.

Do The Heavy Lifting For Them

Due to staff reductions, those staffers that do remain will have even more work on their plate with less time to do it in. Because of the current climate, a journalist’s time and attention is now more limited than ever and they value PR professionals who essentially give them all the details for their story, neatly packaged and wrapped with a pretty red bow.

They do not and will not take the time to piece together a jigsaw puzzle on your behalf, nor will they show much interest if you come to them with a half-baked idea. This means, you need to coordinate interviews, share media collateral details, relevant data, statistics and industry research, in order to make their lives easier and your story more enticing.

Wrapping Up

Even if you aren’t embroiled in the world of PR, I’m sure you’ve undoubtedly noticed the trend of news publications either shrinking or closing house. That said, put yourself and your company’s media efforts in a position to succeed via thorough industry research and crafting unique, innovative and irresistible storylines.

Not sure how to approach the hyper-competitive media relations space? The PR experts at Power Digital Marketing would love to chat!

Amanda is a PR & Outreach Manager at Power Digital Marketing where she spearheads all media relations and outreach initiatives. She’s passionate about executing campaigns that thoughtfully blend digital and traditional PR tactics to boost her client’s bottom line. Outside of the office, Amanda can be found supporting her beloved Liverpool FC (YNWA!), binge watching reality TV or breaking a sweat at CrossFit.