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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?

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Seven things I learned from giving my first seminar

Recently, I blogged about a presentation I gave to artists, teaching them the basics of D.I.Y. media relations. I’ve sat on panel discussions before and spoken in front of the Association for Women in Communications South Florida (as president and past president), but I’d never had the opportunity to stand at the front of a room under bright lights, and speak for 45 minutes about one of the topics I’m most passionate about. And I can’t wait to do it again. Here are five things I learned from this new experience:

  1. Organizing the presentation: Make it a thought process. Lead the audience step by step through this thought process, with as few detours as possible. Not only is it a very effective teaching technique, but it relieves a lot of pressure to memorize, memorize, memorize. Standing up in front of a room full of people, looking expectantly at you, can be a hair trigger to losing your words (and your mind, and your composure)  all of a sudden. If you work yourself through your own thought process, you’ll never forget what you need to cover.
  2. Wear something comfortable – physically and psychologically. I chose my go-to jeans, a comfy blouse, and a blazer that never fails me. If you’re up there tottering in heels too high, or uncomfortably shifting around a wedgie, or worrying if your bra is showing through, your level of effectiveness is going to be inversely proportional to the level of your uneasiness. Pick something you know looks good, feels good, and is going to hold up under hot lights and moving around on stage.
  3. Gauge your audience. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure how experienced my audience was with media relations, or even (what we might consider simple) tasks like setting up a Youtube channel. And I was surprised to learn what they needed to learn. Yes, the “raise your hand if…” opener is a bit cheesy and overused, but if I didn’t ask a few of those before I began, I might have ended up teaching people what they already knew, or failing to teach them what they really needed to know.
  4. Shut up early and let the audience take over. That “15 minute” Q&A session is never, ever going to be enough time for everyone to pose their questions. Next time I give a seminar, I’m going to hold it to 35 minutes and then let the discussion do the rest.
  5. Get there early and stay there late. Not only is this another great way to gauge your audience before you begin your seminar and find some familiar faces you can use as anchors in your view of the audience, but it also lets the “never long enough” Q&A session continue afterwards. Hand out a couple of business cards. Invite people to contact you later with more questions. The closer you get with your audience and the more information you have time to provide, the more you – and they – will get out of your seminar.

Any experienced speakers out there like to weigh in? Leave a comment!

Math, media, and mass marketing: Today, the little guy has the biggest voice

February 8, 2011 2 comments

Marketers have known for quite some time that marketing to smaller segments of the population can be more effective than marketing to the masses.  Now, the New York Times has reported on a surprising – but similar – new development in the study of the spread of social memes, like “retweets” on Twitter or spreading gossip, videos, information, or news through other social networks and blogs. Researchers have found new patterns in the way that information is spread in cyberspace and have found that it is dependent upon a multitude of factors including the polarizing nature of the information, the structure of the social network, and what we’re looking at in today’s post: how the sharers stack up statistically against the rest of the population. That is, where they lie on demographic spectra often used by marketers to focus their efforts.

As it turns out, the sharers on the “fringes of society” have the greatest influence on a broader scale.

As any marketer knows, mathematics and quantitative research have become increasingly important in marketing over the past decades, from conducting the most mundane focus groups to intensive market research involving measuring the sentiments, attitude changes, and behavioral changes of hundreds of thousands of people over years. And it has become more and more apparent that marketing to the masses isn’t always the most effective way to influence people. One well-known example of this idea is the classic “long tail theory.”

Long tail theory refers to the way demographics are distributed on a graph like the one at left. The larger the demographic group, the farther it lies to the left of the graph.  For instance, female adults between the ages of 18-55 might be represented at the extreme left of the graph; female adults between the ages of 25-35 who live in urban areas might be represented somewhere in the middle; and female adults ages 55-65 who play more than 4 hours of online video games per day might be represented at the far right -“the long tail” of the graph.

While it may seem intuitive to focus marketing to the left end of the spectrum, where there are the most subjects, marketers eventually figured out that the the long tail (basically, the total quantity of people from a large number of small groups) is actually larger than the tall end of the graph (the total quantity of people from a small number of large groups). Therefore, marketers of products (besides those applying to nearly everyone, like toilet paper or gasoline) get more bang for their buck by focusing on “the long tail.”

Now, with the idea that the “long tail” – smaller, more specialized groups of the population – has already long been recognized as a prime target for focused marketing efforts, let’s take a look at another popular marketing metric that evidences the same sea change in social media influence, as featured in the New York Times article we’re referencing – the bell curve.  Marketers can use the bell curve as a method to target the most average members of a population – those lying at the center of the curve. But according to the article, social media influence is more and more held by those at the extreme ends of the curve – for instance, the early adopters of a technology; the most prolific bloggers in a small niche; the tweeters who share the most news the fastest.

As a case study, let’s take an example of how this impacts the marketing of a product: say, Ugg boots. Some love their Uggs more than their own mother; some hate Uggs with a passion that burns deep; and most people kind of like them or kind of don’t like them or don’t really care one way or another. Marketers are increasingly seeing that the way to get the word out is to reach out to the extreme haters and the extreme lovers. The extremes of the bell curve are the populations which are most likely to share information about the marketer’s brand, says Sunil Gupta, a digital marketing professor at the Harvard Business School.

There you have it: the little guys have the biggest voices. It’s already abundantly clear that social media is rewriting the book on how people relate to one another, influence one another, and learn about the world. We as marketers and public relations professionals are seeing social media not only rewrite the book on the methods organizations and institutions use to relate to people, influence people, and teach them about the world – but recalibrate the algorithms as well.

What’s the takeaway from this? Leave no stone unturned in seeking the maximum effectiveness in penetrating key audiences with key messages. In this regard, you can take lessons learned from long tail theory and apply them to your media relations outreach: that is, focusing on the smaller, niche, trade publications on the “long tail” of the graph can be just as effective at raising awareness of your clients’ brands and stories, earning credibility among their peers and core client base, and driving referrals and business growth as focusing on the Wall Street Journals and Vanity Fairs of the press world. When it comes to reaching and influencing specialized groups of referral sources or customers, even “little” media has a big voice.

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?

“Edit-bots?” The PR Game Has Changed

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

This post originally appeared on “May the Schwartz Be With You,” the official blog of Schwartz Media Strategies, on December 3rd, 2009.

by Julia Wakefield

Connect to Julia on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

The public relations business and the strategies we use to achieve success are changing rapidly in an age of constantly-evolving technology.  In yet another example of how the game is changing, PaidContent.org (a news site covering the “economics of content”) reports that AOL is replacing its news editors with robots.

That is,

“rather than just rely on editors and journalists deciding on what kinds of stories to run, AOL will employ a system that relies on a series of algorithms that will predict the kinds of stories, videos and photos that have the greatest appeal to audiences and advertisers.”

Further, AOL is developing a site called Seed.com to coordinate article assignments for the 3,000 freelancers it employs.

“The new system will also help determine how much freelancers get paid, as it predicts how much marketers might pay to advertise on a particular article.”

The edit-bots will also screen for grammar and spelling mistakes – even plagiarism.

What does this bode for public relations professionals like us here at Schwartz Media?

Read more…