Social Media is Over (rated), Long live PR? New Pew research offers some surprises

I’ve worked in Public Relations for roughly 4,560 days. And during every single one of those days, I’ve spent some time trying to land that major story in The Wall Street Journal or Fortune for our clients. I love the power of digital PR, but guess what? Most of my clients still want to be quoted in the journalism blue-chips.

It turns out that it’s not just my clients that care about “old media.” It’s all of us.

In a recent experiment, Pew Research Center found that 92% of new content in one American city was fueled by traditional media. Bloggers are believers, too. They link more than 90% of the time to newspapers/”old media” to support their story.

Amy Mitchell of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism shared some other surprises during her September speech at Worldcom’s Americas Region Meeting:

  • News Grazers: The primary news source notion is now obsolete. Now we have news grazers – 92% get news from multiple platforms, both on and offline
  • …But Not Aimless Wanderers: 57% visit 2-5 sites per day
  • Short Attention Spans: 56% begin with a news aggregator or portal, so news must be packaged in quick grabs. Editors are now required to consider the ultimate “path” of the information
  • There are clear winners: Only 340 of the 4,600 news sites attract 500,000 unique visitors per month, suggesting that the vaunted “Long Tail” theory may be a myth. In fact, 7% of news web sites get 80% of the traffic.
  • There’s always room for good ideas: Magazines that have actually grown audience are “higher intellect,” long form oriented publications such as The Economist and New Yorker
  • Human Beings Like Surprises: 34% of people still desire “accidental news” that they weren’t looking for – that’s an opportunity for content developers.
  • Budgets down for TV news…and it’s not going to the PBS News Hour: Since 2000, $300 million has been lost from network TV newsrooms. Yet since 2006, only $141 million have been invested in non-profit media.

Interestingly, Mitchell believes that the future of news may well depend on news organizations’ ability to accept the “new citizen’s” ease with raw data. Consumers are increasingly comfortable with sifting through the information themselves.  In that environment, media “survivors” will start transforming journalism into a service that offers “sense making,” aggregation, empowerment and partnerships.

So what are the implications for PR professionals? Nurture your relationships with mainstream media, since smart journalists undoubtedly still have a major role to play in news development. But recognize their job is changing – just ask John Byrne why he stepped down as Business Week editor to start Poets and Quants.

Do you agree with Pew’s data on reporters? Will it change how you evaluate your own public relations objectives?

To reach Elizabeth:

Phone: 212.840.0017
Twitter: @elizabethsosnow
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