The newspaper Armageddon: what it means to the media industry

10 Jun

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Hoosier PRSA luncheon with guest speaker, Ruth Holladay, a journalist for 37 years and former Indianapolis Star columnist. The topic, “What the Heck Are Newspapers,” fit perfectly with the gloomy and dreary Wednesday afternoon. In media relations, the recent decline in newspapers is a bit startling. As we watch a “revolution” unfold before our eyes, we are hesitant and nervous as to what the future may hold, especially for newspapers. Holladay is a committed journalist with strong beliefs in the “noisy, tangible, yet heroic” newspaper. Not surprising, given the generation. My mom would never consider ending her subscription to the Indy Star, it’s a tradition.

Now, I don’t have a crystal ball or tarot cards but I can tell you… with the reality of newspapers becoming extinct, many media relations professionals are starting to freak, especially with hypotheses such as this one, “Last Newspaper to Publish April 2043.” Whoa is right?

Without the 15” by 22” black and white bundle of information, who would cover our stories? Who would interview our clients and tell their stories? The answer is the same as before, people!

While we live in a harsh reality, we also live in a society full of eccentric and extraordinary human minds. As a young PR professional (only my 4th week in the real world), I have not lost hope. While the Internet may be damaging the newspaper business, it certainly has opened many doors for us PR folks. The fascinating, yet mildly intimidating World Wide Web is a media relations challenge in itself. This revolution forces more concise & accurate research to ensure we are pitching the right people. And not just that, but that we are firm believers in what we pitch. In a word of mouth society, we can’t afford to tick off any journalists or bloggers! Research is the backbone to any successful PR coverage. Sure, everyone gets lucky now and then, but more often than not, luck isn’t enough.

welcome to the world wide web signIt is no surprise the amount of engagement that coincides with the Internet. Instead of a few people influencing the masses, we PR professionals engage new influencers. It truly is spectacular. Deviating from the theory of structural imperialism, the flow of information is no longer just from the center, transnational news agencies. The Internet has given new meaning to the free flow of information. The millions of blogs are essentially peripheries, creating and sharing their own information and beliefs, and connecting with one another. Blogs and news sites continue to throw information, opinions and ideas at us left and right. While it’s exhilarating, it’s a challenge to keep up. As long as people are talking, journalism and media relations are not going anywhere, just simply headed a different direction. Change is inevitable.

So what is the future of newspapers? Will they soon shrink to regional or even national papers? Will they land on our doorstep only twice a week? What does it mean for media relations? Time shall tell. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments!

And, if you want to learn more about Ruth, check out her blog: http://www.ruthholladay.com/

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3 Responses to “The newspaper Armageddon: what it means to the media industry”

  1. Sean Bailey June 11, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    Nice post Adrienne.

    I think calling it the death of newspapers is a bit harsh. Like anything, news is just evolving. Now that it’s easier for people to comment on or cover news, the profession isn’t as prestigious as it once was. Now journalists have to try harder to get the common person to listen to what they have to say.

  2. Jon Boroshok June 12, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    This is a provocative post that’s hard to disagree with. The decline of newspapers, along with the growth of blogs, social media, and other interactive technologies is changing media relations and the very definition of media.

    While historical favorite media outlets may lose favor or disappear, other opportunities are indeed arriving daily with more on the way. Rather than “one size fits all” newspapers, people may turn to newer media and writers for information.

    As media relations professionals, we need to evolve or perish too. We (and our clients) must accept these new media outlets and the changing rules of the game. What we once viewed as journalism is changing — not always for the better, but it is what it is.

    The new media outlets will reach a smaller, focused (almost niche) audience. This targeting means we too must target/focus our efforts, making each message more relevant to that specific audience. We must engage and build community, interacting with our audience rather than just controlling the communication and staying on message. We no longer talk TO people, we talk WITH people. It’s a cultural shift that we need to start making now.

    Mainstream media (newspapers) aren’t going away just yet. They’re still relevant to a valuable segment of our core audience (know lots of folks over 40 that Tweet?). It’s just no longer the only game in town, and rapidly moving from lead to a supporting role.

    • adriennebailey June 12, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

      Thanks for commenting. You give some excellent advice that is right on point. The niche audiences is a major benefit of these new media outlets. Working together with our clients, to find the best use for them is essential to success. As far as working with journalists, we must continue to inform and show a sincere interest in their work. Personalizing any pitch is a must, no one wants generic e-mails flooding their inbox. It is exciting to be apart of this revolution, and each day we learn something new.

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