Journalism isn’t dead, it’s just finding itself

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In the years since I started out in public relations so much about the industry has changed. It’s now almost unrecognisable. Plenty of good has come, but plenty of negatives too- not least the decline of print, job losses at every newspaper in the country, and the future of journalism becoming increasingly fragile.
A leaked memo from Trinity Mirror, the largest regional publishing house in the country, is evidence of how bad things have got. Declaring with shocking honesty that the firm can no longer afford to create a quality product for its Midlands readerships, it’s telling of the fact old media models are no longer financially viable. This may just be one company, but I’d hazard an educated guess this view is widespread amongst many rivals too.
It’s worrying to say the least, especially for brands in search of column inches. How can a PR campaign have any hope of achieving the desired results when newsrooms are becoming so short-staffed they can’t function properly? Press releases are missed, phone calls unanswered, and emails left sitting in a 1,000-strong pile of unreads because staff writers now double up as sub editors.
Elsewhere, though, and the new media landscape is less scary, and more exciting. In this issue of the Smoking Gun newsletter we examine how powerful print titles remain when it comes to social media reach. And for every struggling platform there are new startups looking to alter the shape of the industry, and provide plenty of opportunities for companies and their public relations output.
Contributoria, which was set up by The Guardian, is a fascinating example. Freelance writers are invited to publish a pitch or story proposal on the website, stating their fee and estimated delivery date. The public can then vote for articles they would most like to see in the next issue of the publication- which is both online and in print- and those with the highest number of votes receive a fully paid commission from the powers that be.
Interesting on so many levels, perhaps the most important difference between this and the old guard modus is that it helps to cement a two-way relationship between readers and editorial. By having their voice heard in terms of what will make it into the magazine, it’s likely people will feel more involved with the title because they feel more in control of content. When a major criticism of everything from newspapers to websites has always been the way many issues people would like to see reported on fall by the wayside, this looks to right that wrong.
And it isn’t the only ray of hope out there, either. Vice has expanded exponentially in recent years, and recently won a swathe of major trophies at The Drum’s Online Media Awards, including the coveted Best Online Editor, beating the likes of Reuters, The Guardian and BBC to the title. Its following, reach and influence is seemingly ever-increasing, along with its profits that can then be invested into things like new in-house writers and editors, and better rates for freelancers.
Sabotage Times is another brand to keep an eye on. Set up by Loaded magazine founder James Brown in 2009, although contributions are unpaid, writers can receive compensation through the sister content creation agency (which has clients such as Adidas, T-Mobile and Puma), or through their work being syndicated across other media channels and titles. With an average of one-million unique hits per month, it should go without saying anything placed here can work wonders for exposure.
So what’s the point in this particular ramble? Simply to highlight the fact that it’s not all doom and gloom in the modern media? Well, yes, and no. Put simply, although there’s trouble ahead for many traditional outlets, there are just as many challenger brands out there, and a growing new journalism sector that’s proving successful. Keeping up with all this is difficult, but not impossible, particularly if you have the right team of experts fighting your corner, starting your conversations, and selling-in your stories.
That’s where me and my team come in, securing earned editorial and third party endorsement, in turn bringing in new customers and retaining established buyers.