6 Factors Changing the Landscape of Journalism (and One Thing That Will Stay the Same)
Journalism has changed dramatically in the last decade, perhaps more than any other industry. That means that we as PR pros have to change our approach, too. To successfully pitch stories in this evolving environment, we have to understand exactly what today’s journalists are facing.
Naturally, the best way to gain insight into the life of a reporter is by talking to one, and we were lucky enough to hear from several expert speakers at the 2019 PRSA Western District Conference. Here are several factors the panelists said have changed (and will continue to change) reporting.
- Increased metrics. Nearly every industry is increasingly relying on metrics to guide their business decisions, and media outlets are no different. Hard data helps reporters understand what their audience wants to read, see and hear, and they have to consider the numbers with every story they publish.
For PR pros, that means understanding not only what reporters are interested in, but also what their audience is interested in. Journalists have to be hyper-aware of the stories that get clicks, and that sometimes means turning down stories that won’t draw a large readership. When you pitch a reporter, understand the audience they’re pursuing and choose an angle that will resonate with them.
- More communication channels…The media landscape is the largest it has ever been (and still smaller than it will be tomorrow). With so many channels, it’s easier than ever to reach diverse, niche audiences. Even the old-guard media companies are reaching their audiences in new ways, including podcasts, social media and video—each of which draws different types of viewers and listeners.
Consider how you (and the reporters you pitch) can use different channels to capture people’s attention. Can you provide high-quality photos to complement a pitch? Do you have the perfect podcast guest? Can you supplement a print article with a digital exclusive? Go beyond quotes in articles and news packages, and think of the reporter as your partner in engaging storytelling.
- …Which means more noise. Although more media channels means there are more opportunities to reach specific audiences, it also means those audiences are bombarded with messages from different sources every day. It’s more difficult for both journalists and PR pros to make their messages stick.
The only way to get around this challenge is to write targeted and captivating pitches that not only attract reporters’ attention, but also turn into stories that attract the attention of their readers and viewers. Reporters want their stories to be seen and heard. Earn their respect by offering unique ideas and innovative angles that will cut through the noise and capture the audience they want.
- Gaps in news coverage. A quick scan of the headlines makes it clear that the east and west coasts are disproportionately represented in the media. Journalists, many of whom are also located on the coasts, don’t always understand the middle of the country; however, the South, Midwest and Plains have plenty of stories to offer.
If you’re pitching a coastal reporter with a story involving this region, find an angle that will pique the reporter’s interest and make it clear why your story matters. You may need to provide greater background information or tie it into a larger trend.
- Focus on the bottom line. Newspapers can’t just report the news anymore. To survive, they have to be true media businesses and find ways to maximize profits for shareholders. This pressure has forced papers, as well as other traditional media outlets, to create new revenue streams through innovative advertising and subscription models.
Although this signifies a massive change in print media, it also presents interesting opportunities for PR. Print isn’t dead, and you should keep an eye on what newspapers are doing. You may be able to leverage it into new partnerships and exposure for your clients.
- Cooperative PR/journalist relationships. As newsrooms are stretched thin, reporters have come to realize that they need PR to survive, and vice versa. The animosity that existed between the two roles has decreased slightly, as PR pros have a better understanding of what reporters need, and reporters recognize that PR pros are there to help. With so many people moving from one industry to the other, too, more people understand the symbiotic relationship they share.
Continue to build relationships with reporters by being responsive and helpful. Target pitches carefully and be considerate of reporters’ time. If you prove to journalists that you can be a useful resource, the relationship between PR and journalism will only grow more cooperative.
- Stories will always rule. Great storytelling will always drive the bottom line. Although the industry is changing, the fundamentals of writing and reporting are not. Journalists who share interesting, informative and emotional stories will always have an audience.
When you’re pitching, focus on helping the reporter get a good story and illuminate an issue, rather than just getting a client mention. This will lead to a mutually beneficial relationship and stories that resonate with the audience.