PR Opportunities in Jarvis’ Vision of the News Article

Newspapers may have folded or cut their frequency, print and online-only newsrooms may have shrunk, but their elemental product—the news article—has not changed that much. If media industry pundit Jeff Jarvis has his way, the tried-and-true inverted pyramid structure of the news article will finally evolve and conform to the realities and opportunities of digital media. Instead of a formula developed for print media that enabled editors to cut from the bottom on short notice, we would have a set of “assets and paths,” says Jarvis in a recent BuzzMachine blog post.

Jarvis, author of Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live (Simon & Schuster, 2011) and What Would Google Do? (HarperCollins 2009), and one of the keynoters for PR News‘ June 21-22 Social Media Summit in New York, suggests that news articles should be stripped to their core assets. For instance, a link can substitute for a background paragraph that may be too obvious for some readers and too shallow for others; links can also substitute for timelines used to set context and catalogues of issues and players.

“So imagine that what used to be an article becomes a set of assets—what’s new, background, timeline, players, etc.—and that the journalist can create distinct paths among them: one for the novice, one for the expert, another for the professsional, another for the policymaker,” Jarvis writes.

Jarvis admits that newsrooms would need to develop a new culture to pull off this transformation, but the logic of his argument makes this development seem almost inevitable. Journalists would be constantly developing and updating interrelated assets, and building links between these assets would be nearly as important as the creation of the individual assets themselves.

This would require a change in culture for media relations teams as well. Instead of pitching a story, media relations pros would be helping journalists develop assets they could use for any number of purposes. A pitch to a journalist, in this scenario, wouldn’t have to be tied to a new product announcement or news of an acquisition. Media relations pros would be able to offer journalists a steady stream of company information, executive bios, news as it breaks, data and industry trends, helping those journalists build a storehouse of assets. This would change the dynamic between journalists and media relations pros, and would perhaps demand a change in the expectations on the part of clients or senior management.

That would require yet another change in culture—perhaps the toughest one to pull off.

—Steve Goldstein

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI