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Did social media kill the journalist?

Not at all. In fact, you might say it creates hundreds of thousands of new journalists every day.

It’s no secret that the media landscape is changing significantly, as methods of consuming news shift away from newspapers and magazines towards social media, where everyone can be a journalist and have an online soapbox of their very own.   In this blog and my firm’s blog, we’ve often covered these changes afoot and ahead and how they affect professionals in our industry and in our clients’ industries.

But it’s not just individuals who are transforming themselves into reporters; new media and the “citizen journalism” trend are opening the door for a new species of journalists: brands, which are quickly adopting the strategy of becoming their own publisher – no receptive Forbes editor required.

Case study number one: the President and First Lady of the United States of America recently adhered to a time-honored (and let’s face it, publicly expected) tradition of making their tax returns public. But instead of releasing the returns directly into the hands of the media, the returns were posted on the White House blog.

Just a day later, another anchor of today’s society announced it was shifting to “self-publishing” as well. I discovered this news in an insightful PR Breakfast Club blog post by Danny Brown. Remember when publicly traded companies, compelled by strict SEC guidelines to release financial data to the public, used paid wire services to distribute traditional press releases with the information? Well, it comes as no surprise to this public relations professional that Google is now the most prominent company to take advantage of a recent SEC ruling that companies may publish their data on their own websites if they meet fair disclosure requirements. Beginning immediately, Google’s financial performance data will be available to its investors on its website, cutting hacks and flacks out of the distribution stream.

The day in which the press release becomes obsolete is close at hand, if not already here. The lesson to be learned: if you don’t already have mechanisms for publishing your own content online – i.e., through a blog, podcast, or Youtube – then you’d better get started. No longer can we count on publications which are merely scraping by to have the manpower, time and space to write a story about our news. Savvy public relations professionals and their clients are putting on their publicist, publisher, reporter, and editor hats in order to ensure that their story gets out there – and to help them shape the conversation, instead of letting the conversation shape them.

Have you begun publishing your content on your own platforms – your blog, Facebook fan page, or LinkedIn group? Have you found luck with it? Which challenges do you think the shift towards self-publishing present for businesses?