It’s A “Digital First” Mentality Across Newsrooms

By Ken Hunter, APR, President of The PowerStation | Communications

MeKen Hunter, APRdia outlets have become so tied to their websites as being their favored venues for covering breaking news and enterprise reporting that many have now formally adopted the strategy that their websites carry more importance than their “page one” coverage.PRSA_CorpComm_250x250_Static

At PRSA NJ’s annual Meet The Media event on April 7, several journalists agreed that print versions of their outlets provide a “news core” and credibility, but the brand extension provided by their websites is critical.

Panelists for the event, held at Montclair State University, included:

  • Andy Martin, investigative reporter, Bloomberg News
  • Robin Wilson-Glover, Managing Producer, NJ Advance Media
  • Loren Edelstein, Editor in Chief of Meetings & Conventions Magazine
  • Diane Harris, Editor of Money Magazine

The event, sponsored by PR Newswire/MultiVu, was co-presented by the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Montclair State PRSSA chapter.

In mid-February, the New York Times shifted its morning news meetings from what is going on page A1 to the direction that digital gets first shot at enterprise (investigative) stories, with the print edition secondary. The Los Angeles Times followed in early March, stating its morning editorial meetings will focus on what it can deliver in the coming minutes and hours.

According to Politico, these changes reflect a growing – and quite belated – realization among the country’s largest newspapers that they must prioritize digital before print. This shift is in response to the trend that 82 percent of Americans now get their news on a computer or laptop, while 54 percent get news on a mobile device, according to the 2014 State of the Media report from Pew Research.

Among other trends in newsrooms, Martin of Bloomberg noted the interest in running long-form journalism – such as in-depth investigative pieces – is shrinking, with a heavier news outlet reliance on stories that take less time to report.

Harris of Money added that the separation of “church and state” (editorial interests versus those of the advertising side) is getting blurrier, with sponsored content becoming a much more frequent force for media outlet revenue streams.

Media brands are also counting on more sources of revenue than just advertising in their print or web versions. Edelstein of Meetings & Conventions explained how her publication has become much broader than a monthly print magazine. It now has 17 industry events, webcasts, and daily breaking news alerts – all platforms that further the brand, plus offer revenue opportunities.

Editors continue the daily struggle to assess the value of particular news while weighing it against what the readers seem to want, said Wilson-Glover of NJ Advance Media. In particular: popular culture and celebrity-focused coverage at the expense of informing readers about hard news. With smaller editorial staffs to cover stories, the selection of what makes the news becomes even more critical.

The panelists also identified these trends as several that public relations professionals may want to consider when pitching news ideas:

  • The trend of running lists remains strong (such as top five ways to do something)
  • Give an outlet embargoed results of a study in advance, to allow a writer to do a more in-depth story on the study that can be published when the results are broadly revealed
  • Make the material being pitched useful and customized for their particular audience, identifying how their targeted readers will benefit (a strategy, panelists claimed, that many PR pitches ignore)

For consumer-focused interest, there is one area that still draws readers, viewers, and listeners the most. Wilson-Glover said her website still sees the most daily visitors to one page in particular: the weather.

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