Old Media Digitization: Boon or Barrier for PR?

by PR Coach on April 5, 2011

The Wrap featured a very interesting look at the top 25 newspapers on Twitter. Let’s analyze it and how newspapers are doing as they go digital, who’s growing online and what some of these trends mean to PR pros.

In his Media Alley column, Dylan Stableford reviewed how the 25 top newspapers fared on Twitter. His chart follows for review:

Top 25 Newspapers on Twitter (credit: The Wrap)

Top 25 Newspapers on Twitter

Let’s look at some of the key data. The newspaper with the largest number of Twitter followers was the New York Times (3,062,437 followers) followed by Chicago Tribune (829,742), Wall Street Journal (748,933) and The Washington Post (388,321).

The three fastest-growing newspapers were: San Francisco Chronicle (+121%), Newsday (+118%) and The Washington Post (+89.88%). Ironically, the New York Times had the slowest growth at +14.7% but the number of actual followers grew by an impressive 393,489.

While the largest newspaper numbers are big, there’s still plenty of room for growth for newspapers online. The three smallest of the top 25 newspapers had only a small number of Twitter followers: San Jose Mercury News (3,447), Contra Costa Times (3,908) and Tampa Bay online (4,028).

My take on the newspaper’s transition to digital is that it’s very much a work in progress. After the top seven, the numbers drop like an elevator.

Contrast that with the number of Twitter followers for online properties The Huffington Post (960,035), The Daily Beast (118,104) and  Mashable’s Pete Cashmore has 2,252,444 followers as of April 5th. One number for Mashable was difficult to determine because of its numerous properties.

What Does This Mean for PR?

While it’s interesting to review the numbers, it’s more fun to think ahead and consider the implications for public relations.

A few preliminary thoughts on the “old” newspapers:

  • Newspapers must transition faster to digital, whether they still print a newspaper in the future or not.
  • The struggle for paid content and digital subscriptions will continue in the near future. No one has the business model right yet.
  • The biggest newspapers, and those with the largest capital, will make the transition fastest. That does not guarantee they will be the most successful. Some smaller newspapers have made strong digital inroads in their local communities.
  • There is still plenty of room for new digital competitors given the relatively low cost of entry.
  • Some of the newer digital competitors already have large circulations, formidable financial resources and revenue. Old print is still sorting out its digital business model.
  • We already know that “newspapers” (the term seems so inadequate) will feature multimedia platforms, citizen journalism, lots of experimentation and plenty of engagement.
  • Dirk Singer showed Online newspaper articles command more attention than print in a recent post.
  • The winners will be those “publications” that deliver content readers want and that some subscribers will pay for in the future.

For public relations, here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Start following the most important publications on Twitter now, including national, regional, local and special niches.
  • Follow also on their blogs, Facebook and emerging social media such as Tumblr and other new publishing or social media platforms.
  • Start following individual reporters and journalists at key publications in order to understand their interests, to pitch story ideas more effectively and to eventually develop a relationship.
  • Carefully interact with article or blog comments but only if you’re able to add value.
  • Occasionally pass along a useful research study or one of your own valuable insights or publications that may promote interest in a future story.

In many respects, the “new” media relations tactics aren’t much different than the old. The difference is it needs to be even more timely, faster, and valuable to the reporter in order to break through the enormous digital clutter.

What’s your take on “old” media? Will they move to digital fast enough to survive? Have you found it easier or harder to interact with media online, especially on Twitter?

We’ve got lots more media relations, news business, journalism and public relations resources in our growing PR Library. It features more than 7,000 tips, articles and insights of value to PR pros.

Photo Credit: Chris Murphy via Flickr

Author:  Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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