9 Traditional Media Trends Impacting PR

by PR Coach on September 28, 2012

Newspaper reading moves digital. TV next?

Newspaper reading going digital according to Pew Research Center. TV next?

You can always count on the Pew Research Center to hit a bull’s-eye when it comes to tracking important media trends. I’ve highlighted nine media trends from their most recent report In Changing News Landscape, Even Television is Vulnerable.

These are trends that will impact PR, marketing and business who depend on traditional media. The opening paragraph of the report overview sets up the challenge:

” The transformation of the nation’s news landscape has already taken a heavy toll on print news sources, particularly print newspapers. But there are now signs that television news – which so far has held onto its audience through the rise of the internet – also is increasingly vulnerable, as it may be losing its hold on the next generation of news consumers. “

Think about that for a moment. Newspaper reach, influence and credibility continue to drop. Daily newspapers try to reinvent themselves. Their business model is broken. The new experiments with social media will not pay the bills and advertisers are unconvinced of the value or resistant to change from what they know.

And TV is next. Challenged by multi-screen users who think nothing of using their smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer while watching TV. All with the help of a PVR.

The new landscape is changing so quickly that “legacy” media cannot respond fast enough. That’s why these trends are so important to follow.

9 Media Trends Worth Noting

Where people got their news yesterday

Here is my choice of nine trends to watch from the Pew Research Center report:

  1. Digital news surpasses newspapers, radio: Percentage of Americans who saw news or news headlines on a social networking site doubled – from 9% to 19% – since 2010.
  2. With young, newspapers lack relevance: For those under 30, 33% of their news via social networking sites, 34% from TV and only 13% from newspapers.
  3. Newspaper freefall continues: just 23% of all surveyed read a newspaper yesterday. That’s down by half (47%) since 2000.
  4. Magazine drop continues: only 18% read a magazine yesterday, down from 26% in 2000.
  5. TV stable for old but tumbling with young: 55% watched TV news or a news program yesterday but only 34% of those under age 30 watched TV news yesterday, down from 49% in 2000.
  6. Local TV news slips: “local” TV news viewing dropped from 54% in 2006 to 48% in 2012; under age 30, it fell from 42% in 2006 to 28% today. Only 23% under age 30 watched cable TV news.
  7. Reading still popular: 51% enjoy reading thought there is a shift to electronic or digital formats.
  8. Digital growing: of those who read a magazine yesterday, 9% read digitally and 20% of those who read a book read in electronic format. The study noted that 55% of the New York Times, 48% of USA Today and 44% of Wall Street Journal subscribers read the newspaper on a computer or mobile device. For magazines, 25% read digital forms.
  9. Online news is more mobile, or social: 17% got news on mobile devices and 38% saw news on a social networking site, doubling from just 19% two years ago.

Irreversible trends for PR: digital & mobile

It’s this last trend that’s most significant to the media businesses as well as those who still hope to use traditional media to reach consumers.

How Media are Adapting to Change

In a Forbes post, Lewis DVorkin hit on the biggest barriers and biggest challenges for traditional media as well as many businesses including PR:

“Journalism in the digital era requires disruptive business models. Dispensing with satellite transmission and truck delivery in favor of wi-fi on planes may be part of it. So is finding a scalable model for publishing quality content that satisfies the voracious appetite of digital news consumers. Then you have to match the cost of producing it with what marketers are willing to pay. Most traditional media companies still struggle with century-old, bureaucratic editorial processes better suited for older technology. Many romantically cling to high-cost newsrooms built for a different economic and advertising climates.”

Disruption. New business models. Scalable publishing. Quality content. Cost of production. Familiar tunes to PR and most businesses these days.

Lewis DVorkin ~Forbes

DVorkin adds a last critical comment: “What I think is quite important here is this – if the cost of print newsrooms aren’t viable in a desktop world of news (and they are not), then they surely won’t be viable in a mobile world in which marketers are willing to pay even less to reach news consumers then they are on desktops (at least at the moment).”

Survival and success may rest on one other vital component – engagement. Imagine a newsroom where reporters write and file stories and engage and interact with readers. In a limited way, it’s starting to happen. In the newsrooms, it’s occurring reluctantly.

Reporters aren’t all trained in social media. Few enjoy social media interaction with all readers especially on their own time. Many media websites, and their comment sections, are a social media free-for-all. But there’s no question engagement will loom large in the future.

The PR implications are obvious. Optimizing your content for social media channels and mobile are critical. Producing content with more video and visuals is key. Shorter, faster, more targeted communications rule the future. Integration of social media channels is important and engagement is critical.

With this backdrop, social media and mobile are just two tantalizing replacements as our media habits quickly change and adapt.

Which traditional media, or for that matter PR firms, will be left standing?  I’m optimistic PR firms are adapting fast enough. “Old” media? Not so much. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments below.

Stay informed on media and society trends by following the work of the Pew Research Center. Follow them on Twitter, browse their website or subscribe to their research newsletter.

And we’ll do our best to keep you up to speed here too on the PR Coach blog. Join us won’t you?

Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals: Reading Bench - David Hodgson via Flickr,  Pew Research CenterForbes