Monday, April 5

Shifting To Digital: Media Moves

According to a study conducted by PR Newswire, journalists are facing heavier workloads. However, if there is any good news for print, it's that the heavy workload provides increased job security as the fear of further job erosion has become moderate.

Last week, as part of my final class for Writing For Public Relations, I hosted Bruce Spotleson, group publisher for Greenspun Media Group, which publishes some 30 different online and print publications. Many of them are niche media publications, delivered free to targeted demographics within specific communities.

"Most of the dailies had made cuts in critical positions such as investigative reporters and political reporters," explained Spotleson. "They tend to be the most expensive positions for newspapers, but they are also among the most important."

While Spotleson has hope for the future and believes that publishers will survive (based in part on slight upticks across several economic indicators), he seems less certain about where the evolution will lead. As hard news reporting gives way to short breaking news, novelty, validation media, and highly trafficked informational light content similar to broadcast news, it is anybody's guess where the objective journalism will end up.

"Heavier workloads, shorter deadlines, and increased competition are causing journalists to seek out new sources of information to help them get their jobs done, including social networks," said Erica Iacono, executive editor of PRWeek. "Although these new tools offer a different way for journalists to interact with PR professionals and media consumers, there must still be a focus on the basic tenets of good journalism."

Unfortunately, good journalism doesn't always translate into readership, a requirement which has been thrust upon some journalists as publishers count page views. Counting hits tends to undermine quality news in favor of trolling for traffic.

Expect more of it. One of the biggest changes in the last year, just as "2010 PRWeek/PR Newswire Media Survey" reveals, is the merging of traditional journalism with online communications. Spotleson said Greespun Media and the Las Vegas Sun had done much the same last year. Reporters and online journalists are attempting to balance two mediums despite very different criteria and formats. Instead of long format in-depth analysis, journalists have to be just as comfortable with three-graph news blurbs.

Likewise, while Spotleson didn't provide details, he made it clear that news publishers are looking to the iPad as the future of print. He's not alone. The survey reinforces this fact, with a continued shift from print to online reporting. Fifty-seven percent of magazine and newspaper journalists indicated that this trend will continue in earnest. The survey also revealed that as many as 91 percent of bloggers and 68 percent of online reporters "always" or "sometimes" use blogs for research, only 35 percent of newspaper and 38 percent of print magazine journalists said they do.

The transition will likely cause some other changes not considered by PR Newswire. Specifically, wire services with the exception of ginning up SEO, will likely become less relevant than search and social networks. And publishers will have to balance being popular and providing quality news in order to remain competitive. Another possibility, according to Spotleson, is that some print could become its own niche. People tend to browse printed magazines when they are delivered to their door or mailbox for free, he said.

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