03.22.2013 | Renee Gastineau
This week, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual State of the News Media report. Not surprisingly, the findings were dismal for some traditional news outlets. Local TV ratings across the country saw a steep decline, losing 6.6 percent of their audience over the previous year. Readership at local newspapers held steady, though circulation overall is still down more than 11 million readers over the past decade. For the first time since 1978 fewer than 40,000 full time reporters remain in newspaper newsrooms.
So where have all the readers, viewers and journalists gone? To digital media, according to Pew. In 2012 traffic to the top 25 online news sites increased 7.2 percent and 39 percent of the people in the survey received their news from a mobile device within the last day. In terms of journalists leaving newsrooms, one place they be finding jobs is the offices of PR firms. A recent analysis of census bureau data by Robert McChesney and John Nichols found that public relations pros outnumber journalists by a ratio of more than 3 to 1.
So what does this decline in traditional news delivery systems mean? Here are a few of my thoughts.
- We’ve seen the decline in news outlets over the past few years and now we are seeing declines in staffing in the surviving newsrooms. From a PR perspective, this means fewer reporters to pitch story ideas to and more competition among other PR pros trying to get placements for their clients. As a news consumer it is troubling to me that there are fewer trained reporters to dig deep, seek truth, and investigate thoroughly..
- Businesses and organizations today have greater opportunity to reach their audiences more directly than ever before. As increasing numbers of us have turned online to fill the void of news reporting, there are an infinite number of ways for organizations to leverage online and social media to get their messages directly to their audiences without a third party filter. Content marketing using blogs, advertorials, videos and sponsored posts are gaining traction among company marketing departments and also news consumers. There are many opportunities for storytellers (i.e., former journalists) to bring credibility to this growing industry by transferring not only their creative skills but also their training in ethics and integrity.
- There is a blurring of the line between word-of-mouth and journalism. Confidence in the reporting that traditional news outlets distribute is declining (48 percent of those interviewed for the Pew study said coverage was not as thorough as before) while most respondents (71 percent) said the most common way to get news is through a friend of family. Most then go seek out the article themselves.
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts of the implications of the pivot in the news media industry. Is this just a natural disruption of a tired old industry? Is the decline in traditional reporting dangerous to democracy? What are the opportunities and pitfalls for companies trying to navigate the rapid change and get their messages heard?