The economic environment has mandated that newsrooms operate as lean, mean news reporting machines. That has meant fewer feet, cameras and microphones on the street for many print and broadcast news organizations. At the same time, those lucky journalists still drawing a paycheck are responsible for generating an even larger amount of content in a multitude of formats. Understanding how these outlets are using innovative digital technologies can yield new earned media opportunities for PR professionals.
THE CONNECTED AUDIENCE
Today, more than ever, broadcasters must reach their audiences using all means possible. Thus, every successful broadcast news operation is engaging with viewers using Twitter and the station’s Web site. These additional channels—along with social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest—will be crucial for these local brands to remain relevant as audiences move away from broadcast TV.
Why are TV news operations rushing online at such a fast pace? Survival. Deloitte reported in January 2012 that 9 million Americans have either pulled out their cable TV or are planning to yank it.
As consumers stop relying primarily on cable and satellite platforms to deliver programming, they appear willing to sacrifice those familiar talking heads who deliver their local news, weather and sports. Local news audiences will be impacted dramatically as consumers opt for myriad Internet-connected devices delivering everything from inane-but-popular stupid pet trick videos to live college basketball games.
As if the fragmentation involving the living room isn’t worrisome enough for traditional media companies, consumers are now using tablets and smartphones to bypass both their Web browser and TV set. More than half of U.S. mobile phone owners have watched video on their devices, reports comScore.
One segment of traditional media relishing these developments is print. For years, the newspaper industry was the poster child for changing information consumption habits. Print executives readily acknowledged that names in the obituaries mirrored their circulation lists.
But print is adapting quickly, and in a way that threatens broadcasters. Newspapers like the News-Herald in suburban Cleveland and the Saratogian in northern New York are taking advantage of lower video production, bandwidth, production and delivery costs and creating video programming that leverages their status as a recognized—and many times the most trusted—media brand in their respective markets.
It was the News-Herald, not local network affiliates, that provided long-form coverage of a church vigil for victims of a school shooting in Chardon, Ohio. Weeks earlier, when a McDonald’s was robbed, the News-Herald had the first video from the scene.
Many of us in PR routinely jump to conclusions about Story A being right for TV while Story B is destined for print. The shift toward all media outlets operating in real time, engaging with their audiences on social media platforms and generating online video presents more opportunity, and a few threats. Positive aspects include:
• The chance to score two hits: a print story that spikes attention for a day and an archived video piece that lives on.
• Content that is eminently more shareable: much more so than something immortalized in ink and paper.
• Ability to showcase aesthetics: products, locations, events, colors, people and culture that don’t lend themselves easily to words.
• Excuse to meet additional news executives at local outlets and trades: Knowing the goals of the digital editor and rules of engagement will help secure coverage and avoid missteps.
Complications abound, too:
• Camera shy: Executives who might not hesitate to be a source for a print reporter can get cold feet when the camera comes out.
• Training needed: Formal on-camera media training will be de rigueur prior to all interviews, not just the visit by 60 Minutes.
• Metrics management: Obtaining measurement data for audience size and impact will be an added complication for many PR pros.
Whatever the challenges may be in this new environment, the most informed PR pros will have first-mover advantage in winning earned media opportunities. PRN
Dave Armon is president of Critical Mention, and a member of the PR News Board of Contributors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.