How to Navigate Today’s Changing Media Environment
Verizon’s contract with Fios1 News ends at 12:01 AM on November 16th, further compressing the media landscape in New Jersey.
As of Saturday morning, 150 people will have lost their jobs and access to local news will be further diminished for New Jersey residents, leaving just News 12 and NJTV for local TV programming.
For journalists and those who work in the industry, it’s a reminder of how tough things have gotten for all media, not just TV. A report from New Jersey Globe shows that within the last 27 years, New Jersey has dropped from 23 daily newspapers – all with local news bureaus and individual editorial boards – to 17 with staffs that are a fraction of the size of their past and in many cases, without editorial writers commenting on local issues.
In August, GateHouse Media announced plans to acquire Gannett, making it the largest daily print newspaper chain in the country. A shareholder vote is slated for November 14th and if passed its impact in New Jersey would be significant, with 15 of the state’s 17 dailies now under the control of two national media conglomerates – GateHouse and Advance Publications.
In total, the United States has lost almost 1,800 papers since 2004, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies. Even worse, newsroom staffs are just 75% of what they were years prior, according to a University of North Carolina study.
Unfortunately, media mergers and closures, whether in broadcast or print, have been the norm over the last several years. Working in PR, I’ve watched my network of contacts constantly change due to layoffs and buyouts like the ones I mentioned above, and it seems that every time I make a new contact the cycle repeats itself.
I talk often with my team and my clients about the changing media landscape, how to respond to it and how we can prepare for additional changes. Here are a few things we talk about:
- Maintaining and growing our media relationships – Yes, the landscape is changing but it’s critical to maintain the media relationships you have. Plus, it makes pitching story ideas much easier than cold calling someone. I try to meet in person a few times a year with key contacts and to be honest I don’t always have something to pitch them, but I use it as an opportunity to grow the relationship. It’s also important to continuously expand your network based on your client base. I’m always looking for new contacts covering healthcare and commercial real estate and related topics since that’s what my expertise is in and I encourage my team to do the same.
- Setting expectations – With the changing media landscape it’s important to know what types of stories will resonate with specific media outlets and use that information to educate your clients and to set expectations. It also provides me with an opportunity to talk with my clients and team about any challenges and how we can mitigate them. For example, if it’s a healthcare story maybe a pitch with a compelling patient source would get more media interest than say a press release where only the doctor is quoted.
- Adjusting our content strategy – “Earned” media remains incredibly important as a way of telling my clients’ stories but “owned” content is something that we’re exploring a lot more in a variety of ways. From thought leadership pieces, to blog programs, social media campaigns, email marketing, videos and even podcasting, we’re looking at a range of platforms that are the best fit for the message and the audience and the most effective way to reach them. An integrated strategy of both earned media and owned content typically works best for most of my clients but the mix is different for each one depending on their organizational goals.
As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. The media landscape in New Jersey and nationwide will continue to change but our agency and our clients will be ready for it. Will you be?