When One Media Door Closes...

As we consider the ways the PR and media worlds are changing, it can be easy to focus on what’s gone – certain publications, journalist friends, strategies that are no longer as effective.  When we talk about what’s new, technology is often at the forefront of the discussion – Twitter, networking sites, digital content, social media releases.  But while the traditional media universe may be shrinking, parts of it are expanding at a rapid rate.

For example, even as the New York Times, BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal remain the gold standard for the majority of our clients, these sites now aggregate content.  This vastly broadens the number of entry points and bumps up previously “second-tier” or even unknown contacts.

A few examples:

  • My daily technology e-mail from The Washington Post aggregates the best stories not only from that outlet, but from other like PC World, TechCrunch, PaidContent, and mocoNews.  All of these sites themselves aggregate content.  At the time of writing this, 4 of the “newspaper's” 10 most read technology stories are from PC World, two are from TechCrunch, and one is from mocoNews.
  • The New York Times now offers the “Extra” edition, which (at the moment) includes stories from blogs I’ve never heard of well above what I think of as the digital fold – the bottom of my computer screen.  One is commentary on the recent fallout from the arrest of Harvard professor from a blog Synthstuff, which describes with the tagline “Occasional notes from a happily married Mt. Baker geek and cider maker…”  Another headline links to alarm:clock, which appears to be a promising outlet for tech startup news.  And while the 15,000 or so unique visitors these sites receive in a month (according to Compete) is certainly more than a few of the niche trade “magazines” struggling to survive, the numbers don't scream "front page of the Times."

So if a client says landing a story in The New York Times is at the top of the wish list, will we scrap outreach the big-name journalists and build our strategy on outreach to the “happily married Mt. Baker geek and cider maker”?  Likely not.  But it poses a few challenges:

  • The story: With clients, we frequently talk about the elements of a business press story, components such a human face, conflict, or statistics, that help bring a story to life.  With traditional business press publications now featuring content from much more niche sources, how can we find a balance between creating broadly appealing and deeper, more focused, long-tail stories?
  • The audience: A great storyteller is a person who deeply understands the audience each time he/she tells a story.  The number of people publishing content online is growing exponentially.  How can we make sure we’re leaving no stone unturned, yet defining our audience and establish meaningful relationships with our targets?

This is an exploration in progress, so – as always – your thoughts are more than welcome.

- Contributed by Catharine Morgan.  Follow her @c_morgan