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State of the News Media

Pew Research Center (one of this NSTer’s favorite resources for economic, social, political and media data) recently shared its State of the News Media 2016 Report. Following technology advancement trends there should be no surprise that there are shifts taking place in how, when and where we consume media. But instead of focusing on the dire “newspapers are dead” elements of change, let’s focus on the positive trends in media consumption that can benefit us as public relations practitioners.

Pew Research Center shares the State of the News Media 2016 Report, with implications for public relations agencies and corporate public relations teams.
Pew Research Center shares the State of the News Media 2016 Report, with implications for public relations agencies and corporate public relations teams.

The report states “younger adults are more likely to name social media as a main source of news” and more than 60 percent of all U.S. adults now get news on social media sites. Many PR pros manage social media accounts on behalf of clients, so why not use this trend to pitch added-value social media stories to news outlets who are already covering your client announcement or event? We can provide reporters with usable tweets, posts and engagement opportunities. This means their social media channels get eyeballs and our client’s message gets spread to voracious media consumers on diverse platforms.

Cord cutting is taking its toll on television viewership. However, “large swaths of the public … remain drawn to that square box in the middle of the room,” according to the Pew report. Not all television day parts are created equal. Evening news stayed steady while morning news and local news programs declined in viewership. One bright star is cable news channels, which saw more viewers tuning in last year than in 2014. This could be driven by presidential campaign coverage, but PR pros should ride the wave anyway. Securing an evening news program or cable news program will now be a gold star in your coverage report.

The changes in news magazine circulation are inconsistent across the industry, indicating the right news magazine could still be a valuable addition to your earned media plans. Subscriptions are generally stable, at roughly the same number of subscribers as the industry had five years ago. Digital issue sales, on the other hand, are climbing up, up, up to the tune of 12.7 million in sales. New York Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Time and Fortune all saw a 30-50 percent increase in digital sales.

Podcast programming continued to pick up audience in 2015, though it still reaches just 36 percent of the total public. If your company spokesperson has a made-for-radio voice and breezes through long-form discussions, podcasts could be a strategic addition to your media relations plans.

Hispanic media are in a state of flux right alongside their English-language counterparts. Even though major Spanish-language daily newspapers and television programs experienced a decline, their online audience grew, “driven by a large increase in their mobile traffic,” according to the report. This provides another opportunity for PR pros – create media-rich, mobile-friendly stories that media outlets will want to share online. Don’t be disheartened if you pitch a story only to find out it ran online but not in print. Hispanics use their phones to research information more than any other ethnic group. Data is telling us that online news can be just as persuasive at reaching this audience.

It’s important for public relations teams to constantly evaluate media lists not just to update individual contacts but gauge the changes in viewership and subscribers. What was once a banner program or column may no longer be the best place to channel your media outreach efforts.

I encourage you to take time to read the full Pew Research Center State of the News Media 2016 Report. The report shares many insights, including the dependent relationship news outlets have with technology companies who “own” subscribers and the very method by which news is shared online — something brand managers can sympathize with as companies struggle to gain a permanent audience while having to depend on platforms like Facebook to drive conversations.

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