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State of the Media 2012: Here come the paywalls

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s no secret that media today is evolving faster than ever before. As the channels through which people consume and disseminate information increasingly move towards the digital, traditional print and broadcast media are scrambling to keep up – fighting for their lives as they try to boost their bottom line through their online content.

This year’s Vocus State of the Media Report covers these issues and more. Here are a few of the most interesting takeaways; you can download the full report here.

–          BUSINESS MODEL CHANGES:

  • More and more, newspapers and magazines are closing bureaus in favor of having their employees telecommute. In fact, about 20 bureaus were closed in 2011, including the Miami Herald’s Fort Lauderdale bureau. Like many industries turning towards telecommuting, reporters and editors can do their work from home or remotely, and it saves money.
  • As print subscriptions shrink, with readers turning to news sites to read for free, many newspapers and magazines are seeking ways to make money from their digital content. Paywalls are increasingly popular among publishers. The New York Times has had a paywall for some time, allowing only 20 free articles each month. The Wall Street Journal makes certain content available only to subscribers. However, in 2011, many small and mid-sized publications adopted paywalls as well. We bet you’ll see more in 2012.
  • Beyond paywalls, some publications are dropping certain editions, including the Times-Standard of California which no longer prints a Monday edition.

MARKETING:

  • The growing Hispanic market is increasingly becoming a treasure trove for publishers. Many are creating content specifically geared towards a Latino audience. For instance, one of only several successful print magazine launches last year included Hispanic Retail 360. Further, several major TV networks are launching Spanish-language websites, and online video streamer Hulu has introduced Hulu Latino. Some local news sites are offering alternative sites in Spanish, just as the MiamiHerald.com does with ElNuevoHerald.com. This is good news for us here in Miami, where Spanish language speakers are so common.

–          SOCIAL MEDIA:

  • In 2011, blog growth was mostly in consumer-oriented blogs, with topics including domestic life, parenting, and cooking. However, industry and trade blogs came in second – evidence that more and more professionals are seeing how an active blog about their area of expertise can enhance their reputation. In fact, we often advise our clients to integrate a blog into their public relations and marketing campaigns for this very reason.
  • Social media has created a new generation of journalists, who can break news faster than any traditional journalists. Social media users can also provide news from areas inaccessible to foreign journalists, such as during the uprisings in Iran and now Syria.

To put the revolution occurring in the media in perspective, consider that the New York Times now has more Twitter followers than print subscribers. It’s an exciting time for media and public relations professionals as we watch traditional media  integrate with digital and social media.

After reading the above points, what are your predictions for the media in 2012?

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?