PR Insider: Newspapers and Editorial Boards Still Have Impact

Even in today's digital age and with social media on everyone's minds, there are still tried and true uses for print media: Yes, Virginia, there are still are newspaper interviews and editorial board meetings.

Andrew Blum
Andrew Blum

No one can argue that print is having a hard time as digital and social media continue their onward march as the future media of choice. But content always has to start somewhere and with the web and social media, much of theirs continues to be done for newspaper-based companies.

So the interview has to be with someone or with a group of reporters or opinion-makers. In the case of editorial boards, the recent mid-term elections are perhaps an example of their importance even today. No candidate would turn down the chance for an editorial board interview or meeting, with the ultimate goal being an endorsement. And the campaigns tally up who has more endorsements and from which outlets in efforts to get out the vote. The $64,000 question remains: do voters pay attention to editorial board endorsements and how much weight do they have?

Even when mid-term or presidential elections aren't center stage, when a person or an organization wants to get the weight of a newspaper behind them, the editorial page is important. If, say, your client wants to push the state legislature to boost transportation and infrastructure funding, a state-wide editorial board campaign is a great tool.

Now, I know what some of you might be thinking – "Really, newspapers? What are they?" The other day I was getting reacquainted with a former colleague and he said, "I never read newspapers anymore. It's all online."

I get the point but newspapers are not dead yet. I guarantee you that with the bottom line bean-counting mentality now in place at newspapers, the print space for interviews and editorial board columns would not exist if there was no economic justification. People still read print despite my friend's habits and the rise of digital.

I also remember being at a college alumni cocktail event at the New York Times where a top editor spoke to the group about print versus the then burgeoning Internet. He said he couldn't ever foresee a day when there would be no Times print edition. Many prognosticators have since disagreed, some even predicting that the Times would end its print edition – period.

But I see nothing wrong for the media consuming public being in an era with both print and digital resources – still leaving relevance for newspaper interviews and editorial boards. There have been other advances in society and technology where we have lived in a split world – radio continued on when TV came to be, for example.

Now as PR people, you can't ignore such changes. But you also know that getting a client interviewed in the Times or the Wall Street Journal is still gold – even with the fractured media landscape. And which client would turn down a Times editorial board meeting? I can't think of one.

So when these happen, they ultimately wind up on the paper's web site and on social media. At the same time, we as PR people have to keep in mind that more content is web only. To get the best of both worlds, we should keep taking advantage of benefits and importance of newspaper interviews and editorial board meetings, while also pitching all available digital outlets.

If you look around at the media, newspapers are naturally becoming more digital but they are still newspapers. How long will it be until newspapers figure out a winning economic model for online subscriptions and advertising? Will that be in our lifetimes and does that mean no more print?

This would come as a shock to buyers of Newseum coffee cups emblazoned with the words: "I love the smell of newsprint in the morning."

When that happens, the "newspaper interview" and "editorial board meeting" as we know them will be dead. But they will live on digitally.

Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at ablum@ajbcomms.com or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms