As we settle into the digital age, no one is in denial about the inexorable decline of print media. Fewer titles are printed, publications fall out of print weekly and sales of newspapers are dropping steadily. People are increasingly choosing digital news sources over printed media. But there will always be a demand for quality news, and there is still no substitute for making headlines. PR agencies need to appeal to both print and digital media and work hard to make their content stand out.
The rise of digital and the decline of print create opportunities, as well as challenges for PR practitioners. There are more means to reach audiences in eye-catching ways, content can be targeted and campaigns are measurable. However, audiences are more fragmented because of the increased number of channels available for them to get their news, making it more difficult to reach a large number of people with any one communications tool
While digital continues its upward trajectory, it’s worth remembering that print isn’t dead yet and still has an important role to play. Newspapers are still widely consumed. In many areas, they are the primary source of local news and are seen as highly credible. If you want to get a message to a local audience, they’re often the best vehicle. Meanwhile, achieving positive coverage in a national newspaper is still the pinnacle for many marketers. PR agencies need to use their carefully honed craft to continue to achieve coverage in print, whilst making full use of digital tools and bearing in mind the demands of online news providers.
On a visit to the offices of Andy Sykes, deputy editor of The Blackpool Gazette (the daily newspaper for Lancashire’s Fylde Coast), Andy gave us his views on appealing to news outlets in the digital age.
Andy told us that, despite the fact that a lot of news today is online, it doesn’t change what makes a good news story.
“Good news stories still need a human element. People like to read about people. Otherwise, the story must have some benefit or relevance to the reader. This is the case whether the story goes online or in print,” said Andy.
Structure is also just as important as ever. It’s crucial that a news story also grabs people’s attention from the start and gives them an idea about what the story is about from the start. The narrative should flow from there.
“If I have to read past the first paragraph to get an idea of what the story is about, or I have to read the press release more than once, it means that the news angle isn’t obvious, and I’m probably not going to include it in the paper,” said Andy.
The thing that’s changed how news is written the most in recent years, according to Andy, is that people’s attention spans have become shorter.
“Readers are consuming news on their mobile phones and tablets on the go. They often don’t have much time to read the news. This should affect how press releases are written because people want to know the facts, quickly, without having to read very much. So apart from grabbing people from the start, news articles frequently have to be shorter.”
Finally, when appealing to editors of online publications, imagery is more important than ever. Although fewer people are buying newspapers, virtually every printed publication has a website. This should be viewed as an opportunity by PR agencies to achieve maximum impact for a client.
“If we get a selection of good photos sent along with a press release, there’s a chance we will make a large feature of it in print. Of course, we can put as many pictures as we like online. Alternatively, if we don’t get some good imagery for a story, we won’t run it online, because everything we publish online has to have a picture with it.”
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