Remember when the answer to that question used to be “the newspaper?” Well, now we start this new decade with fewer newspapers according to research from Vocus in its State of the Media Report released late last week. Vocus found that just last year alone 293 newspapers folded with nearly 100 closing its doors in the first quarter.
293 newspapers folded last year.
In this age where anyone and everyone with an opinion can become a global online star in minutes, newspapers were just too slow to adapt to the realities of the living, breathing, organism that is the Internet. The Internet is to the newspapers as Napster was to CDs. Remember when sharing music threatened to kill CD sales? Now, copyright laws make it illegal to share music online. While I don’t think anyone is going to jail for sharing links to news on Twitter, the Internet essentially ravaged newsrooms last year. Early retirements and buy-outs have forced many long-time favorites from The Washington Post, New York Times and USA Today to move into blogging.
As an agency PR professional, I still read the paper and have it delivered to my home on the weekend. But 85 percent of the news and trend-spotting information I gather comes from Twitter, TV, breaking news text messages and online news sites. Unfortunately for the traditional newspaper, the instant access afforded by the Internet is the best way to get information these days. In fact, some newspapers have transitioned to print, online and mobile to share news; the State of the Media Report found that nine online newspapers launched last year.
In many ways, the newspaper is still relevant. You can’t get in-depth reporting on the real players in the Wall Street bailouts, the plans to move an incinerator to your neighborhood or the strategy behind the next generation iPhone unless you read the paper. As a professional communicator that needs to understand the business issues that impact clients, I can’t claim to fully understand the nuances of Net Neutrality or changes at the FCC without reading the newspaper. At my first agency gig, my boss told me that I had to read everything to be successful in this business. With newspapers disappearing, the game of media relations has changed dramatically. But clients still expect us to understand the industry and policy issues that impact their business, so if you are serious about business communications, I encourage you to maintain a subscription to your local paper.
Magazines are not exempt from the fate that took many newspapers out of circulation last year. Now more than ever, PR pros need to be creative in pitching and maintaining relationships. In my next post, I will share my top tips on how to be versatile and capitalize on new opportunities presented by the changes at magazines.