Monday, March 1

Breaking News: It's Not Your Grandpa's PR Environment

The Pew Research Center study that finds 59 percent of all Americans get their news from a combination of online and offline sources isn't breaking news as much as it solidifies the shift in how people seek information and how information spreads. Even reporters are relying heavily on online content, making some of them online curators more than they are offline investigators.

Sometimes the results are absurd. CNN recently ran a story about a 140-year-old hot dog. Even after the story was revealed as a hoax, it still spread across social networks because people want to believe such things to be true.

What's more, people might use multiple platforms for news, but they continually choose from a relatively narrow field of Web sites. Fifty-seven percent rely on two to five Web sites for their news. Twenty-one percent say they get their news from just one site. Often times, those singular sources of news are the same outlets shared on a different platform.

What Americans Consider Their Source For News.

78 percent get news from their local television station.
73 percent get news from networks and cable news stations.
61 percent get news from online sources.
54 percent get news from a radio news program.
50 percent get news from a local newspaper.
17 percent get news from a national newspaper.

The study also reveals that online news consumption is increasingly portable (cell phones), personalized (customized news outlets), and participatory (shared via social networks). It also seems to be search reliant, with the most popular subjects searched: weather, national events, health and medicine, business and the economy, international events, and science and technology. The study can be found here.

Typically, what we've found from in-house research is that public will hear about an event online, search for content, and then pick among perceived trusted sources, headlines, and summaries. There is some difference in the type of content searched among different search engines.

How It Has Changed The Public Relations Environment.

With an increasing number of possible outlets, companies can no longer be satisfied with public relations firms that turn out lists of random runs from a variety of news outlets captured via lists. New stories need to be increasingly targeted to reach specific outlets, which requires a better understanding of the publics those firms hope to reach.

After all, with the average person being exposed to approximately 112,000 words of communication every day, the chances that a one-time run story in a local outlet will be seen, remembered, or acted upon is relatively small. The average niche blog can reach more people and have a greater impact.

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