Why Communications Pros Need to Better Understand the Media Landscape’s Evolution Over the Last Decade

For RF|Binder’s latest Hour to Empower, we had the privilege to hear from Sibel Lowin, Head of Go-to-Market & Strategy of the Digital Growth Program at Google. We learned about evolving business models in news organizations, the implications for local and national media publications, and the overall role that strategy functions play within news organizations.

Newsrooms understaffed, reporters overworked, what’s new?

Two thousand news organizations have shut down in the US over the last 15 years. Of those remaining, many newsrooms are understaffed and journalists are overworked. And according to Cision’s 2021 Global State of the Media Report, nearly 50% of journalists are now covering 5 or more beats; and a third are filing ten or more pieces a week. What’s more, our role in communications and media relations is to work hand in hand with the media and deliver real stories, yet over two thirds of journalists say only 25% or less of the pitches they receive are relevant. Newsrooms don’t have the resources, time or money to waste sifting through junk. By better understanding not only the trends and topics important to newsrooms, but the business implications of the evolving media landscape, we can better serve as resources for the media.

The decline of print news

Ten years ago, most of the US population was consuming print news and the majority of the revenue for news organizations came from print advertising. Now, only about 10% of the US population consumes news via print regularly. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the decline of print, and at the same time online traffic reached new levels. This has caused many news organizations over the past two years to open their eyes and realize they need to make changes to meet this shift towards digital.

On the bright side, over the past decade about 700 new independent local news start-ups have sprung up. These newer organizations are digital natives who are testing out new and different revenue models based on how people are consuming news today.

The shift to digital

It’s become evident that legacy news organizations need to adapt to survive by shifting to digital advertising, or by adopting a reader revenue model – yet, only a fifth of the US is willing to pay for news online. This dynamic creates quite the predicament and makes it difficult for news organizations to adapt to digital transformation. To top it all off, news consumption is decreasing across channels, except across social media. To meet shifting consumer demands and to appeal to the younger generations, news organizations have had to shift and meet their audiences where they are – online and on social media.

Give the people what they want

Whether a news company is a legacy organization or new digital native, it’s essential to understand the data and the metrics behind the business and behind the reader audience. Whether it’s the way readers want to consume news or the stories they want to read, audience engagement is the most important piece. The data shows that digital consumption is the preferred channel. Yet, news organizations need to get the method of delivery down, but also make sure they are delivering the news and content their audiences’ desire. If a news organization is local and members of the community want local news, it’s important to find the types of stories – whether about local restaurants or local government – that resonate with the audience in order to deliver a truly differentiated and valuable product worth paying for.

The end goal between media & communications: symbiosis

Giving the people what they want is also important when it comes to the relationship between the media and communications professionals. Many news organizations have been struggling and the shifting landscape not only makes pitching more difficult for us, but work more difficult for them as well. Back to the point that over two thirds of journalists say only 25% or less of the pitches they receive are relevant, we as communications professionals need to do better. We need to understand what kind of content a publication or reporter’s audience wants to see and always keep that in mind when pitching. Newsrooms need to produce content that their audiences crave – and our job is to continue to be targeted in our approach and our pitching to help deliver those stories.

The goal and purpose of the relationship between media and communications is symbiosis; it’s all about delivering stories that speak to our clients’ impact that also directly relate to a media organization’s audience’s interests.