07 Dec 2016

It was with a sense of loss that I read on Friday that CBS World News anchor Bill Whitney and Washington correspondent Barry Bagnato were leaving the network. There were other, 30-plus year veterans leaving as well. Their voices carried the news to me countless times over the years.

It was a reminder that, as 2017 looms around the corner, economic struggles at mainstream media outlets continue, even after years of job cuts. Gannett, Thomson Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Univision Communications and the Detroit News have all recently announced reductions in their workforce.

There is no lack of news, of course. It’s the business model of large and mid-sized mainstream press outlets that continue to falter.

In some ways, the media is going back to niche markets the way it used to be back in the mid-1800s. Newspapers then were partisan press, allied to one political party or the other. But with the invention of very expensive, big presses, newspapers in the later 1800s started to seek larger, nonpartisan audiences to help pay for that big press. National brands arose and advertisers preferred fewer media outlets. All the way into the 1990s, most cities across the country only had one large newspaper; very large cities had maybe two or three.

But then, the Internet changed everything, in a way that radio and TV never could. By the early 2000s, the writing was on the wall. By 2008 newspapers were cutting jobs like crazy. In 1990 the newsroom workforce in the U.S. numbered more than 55,000. By 2015 that number was under 33,000. Rather than needing huge presses, it’s relatively inexpensive today to have a website, to write a blog or do a podcast and reach people across the globe. And coverage can be very niche.

So, what does this mean in 2017 for brands or nonprofit organizations concerned about their reputation and getting positive exposure in the media? It means the media today is much more complicated to traverse. The need to carefully monitor and understand media is more important than ever.

Are you advertising? With so many options, know your media. Kellogg’s recently pulled its advertising off Breitbart News, a website catering toward a particular type of political mindset. Doing media relations? Outright incorrect news stories can be hard to put down after going wild on social media. Many Americans increasingly get their news from personalization algorithms, leading to the concept of the social media echo chamber.

This is not to say all the new media is bad. What is does mean is if you care about your PR, partner with media relations experts and keep an eye on the news writers as well as the newsmakers.

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