How to Stay Focused During This Period of Tech Media Disruption

What we’ve seen in the media industry over the past six months is extraordinary. Some would say it’s shocking, while others will say this was bound to happen. Any way you slice it, the rapid reduction of the media workforce and the shuttering of some of our favorite outlets and platforms will have a huge impact on the world of public relations.

But let’s remember that this isn’t the first time this has happened.

Twenty years ago, I worked at an agency focused almost exclusively on magazine PR for titles including MAXIM, Stuff, Blender, The Sporting News, and others. At that time, glossy magazines had monthly readerships of three-to-four million and were just kicking off their digital presences.

Then what happened? The testosterone-fueled glossies quickly went by the wayside. Online became everything for sports and news. Titles that launched with much fanfare went out of business within a few years. Remember Tina Brown’s Talk magazine?

Panic ensued amongst media insiders, PR people and brands alike. But many magazines still live on to this day. They haven’t removed the magazine rack from your local supermarket or airport, and you can still find a newsstand on many corners in NYC.

Tech Media Disruption

Today, media industry layoffs are running parallel to startup and tech company layoffs.

One reason: private equity takeovers of media companies leaving people with no experience running the day-to-day and only focusing on the bottom line rather than a good product.

Then there’s the product. So many outlets chase the world’s leading brands and the same stories. What about all the small-and-mid-sized companies doing meaningful work?

And, of course, there’s monetization—banner ads, pre-roll ads, in-text ads, subscriptions, PPV, exclusive content, memberships and so on. There’s a reason no one has solved the monetization problem in the media. It’s because there is no one magical solution.

Yet all hope is not lost. A good portion of these layoffs are happening in the “tech” media world, which is a bubble living within a bubble. Also, some media sectors are thriving, such as local and trade/vertical media.

Yes, the mainstream media have a lot of work to do. They need to determine how much they want to cover hard news vs. just politics, find the right business model, identify the consumers that still need to be served, refine their voice and more.

It’s About Focus

Here's what you and I—the rank-and-file PR folks who our clients task to get coverage in TechCrunch—should do in the meantime.

  • Focus on your client’s (or brand’s) narrative and value proposition. Press releases on new hires or product features are nice and keep you on a reporter’s radar. But with fewer reporters, you need to emphasize “value” and your “why” even more. What is the value of my client’s product or service to the audience? Why should readers purchase your clients’ products?
  • Focus on outlets that will help drive the business forward. Sure, tech media has been affected, but trade and vertical media are thriving. These publications, while they might not have millions of readers, reach your clients’ target audiences. They reach buyers!
  • Focus on delivering value in other places. Media relations is the bread and butter of PR, but it’s not everything. Help your client prioritize owned content and identify customer advocates to tell your story.
  • Focus on being intentional. Create every plan, strategy, pitch and touchpoint with a purpose.

By remaining focused on these core elements of public relations amidst all this change and uncertainty, you will be more likely to help your clients achieve their objectives and reach your own professional goals.

David Barkoe is co-founder and CEO of Carve Communications.