A Plain Truth About the Media Ecosystem

EU Media Futures Forum pic_0There are so many sources of news media now and so many ways to get the news, it's difficult to determine which outlets and journalists have the most influence. Also, social media has leveled the playing field, and traditional media brands don't matter as much now.

So you've been led to believe—or want to believe.

If a new ranking of influential financial journalists and media brands is any indication of a larger trend about who and what really has influence in news media—and it should be an indication—traditional news media brands remain supremely influential, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

In a survey of 400 U.S.-based financial journalists conducted by Gorkana in partnership with Matt Ragas and Hai Tran of DePaul University, none of the top 10 most influential journalists work for an Internet-only media brand. The top 10 work for newspaper, magazine and TV brands that have diversified into digital. Felix Salmon (tied for fifth), works for a new TV outlet called Fusion, but even that's a joint venture between two traditional media brands, ABC and Univision.

In the list of the 10 most influential financial media outlets, Yahoo Finance is  the only Internet-only brand on the list and, in fact, dropped two places to 10th compared to a year earlier.

Are the financial journalists surveyed more inclined to select the legacy brands and out of touch with what PR pros might select? Not necessarily, says Ragas, assistant professor and academic director of the M.A. in PR and advertising program in the College of Communication at DePaul University. "They’re not blind to the changes that have been going on. I’ve seen them nominate Business Insider."

Ragas says PR pros need to pay close attention to journalists' opinions about media influence. Journalists often get their news from other journalists, so any study like this shows the true centers of influence.

"We know from prior academic research that financial journalists indicate that they look to other media outlets as well as their readers for story ideas," he says. "It’s not to say the PR [that comes their way] is not important, but every PR pro needs to understand how the media ecosystem operates. You want to know who the perceived influencers are. In our guts PR pros might think that the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are the most important outlets, but now we have data from the very people who create business news that they are the most important."

So if you're a PR pro and your CEO or client complains that you haven't landed positive or neutral coverage in the Times or the Journal, there goes your excuse that old-school media no longer matter.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI