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Exploiting Trends in the Media: Advocacy Response to Journalism.Org Findings

There is a great new report on the state of journalism in 2004 posted by journalism.org. The study is the work of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an institute affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The report is a must read. The trends and dynamics they discuss are targeted toward the journalists but the work also has major implications on the strategy you should be using to distribute messages and work with these dynamics.

Here is my take on the findings and a brief discussion of the possible strategy implications.

1. More news outlets are fragmenting views and audience. They are also seeing a general decline in audience size.

It is more important than ever that advocacy groups have access to great database of always changing news outlets. What online sources, radio, TV, magazines and papers are reaching your target audience. It is no longer safe to assume that if you get the local papers your are moving your message to the right people at the right time. It is also essential that you work your "hooks" into the online version, TV version and radio versions of the outlet (or reporter).

2. Budgets are disappearing. Newsroom is shrinking. Less reporters need to generate more content.

Make it as easy as possible for the reporter to cover your story. They do not have the time to track down leads and facts. The more you can complete the story for your journalists friends the more likely they will do something with your story. Make sure you have an online press room. Have the story, images, graphs, video, key contacts, etc. prepared for the journalists.

3. Online, ethnic and alternative media have growing audiences.

It is essential to develop the relations with the emerging media. The dynamics are moving in the right directions and the online, ethnic and alternative media are going to have increased budgets and resources to help "break" stories. these are the places where the y will have more resources to attack stories important to their readers. Increasingly advocacy communication staff should have a communications plan that taps into the increasing power of alternative media.

4. Much of the new investment in journalism today - much of the information revolution generally - is in disseminating the news, not in collecting it. Most sectors of the media are cutting back in the newsroom, both in terms of staff and in the time they have to gather and report the news.

Every good story hit is increasing in potential redistribution value. Many outlets are entering content sharing and re purposing agreements. Do not disregard smaller outlets as an outlet for your big story exclusive because the value of the story can be picked up across media partnerships. Target small bureaus of the big papers to see if you can "trickle up" rather than merely going with the "big" hit and then customizing the story for smaller markets.

5. raw elements of news as the end product...

Produce your own content. Provide your video, photos, recordings of people in the street or public meeting. The 24 hours cycle has an endless demand for fresh content and almost zero money to produce it. The more that you can connect them to volunteer video and accounts "on the scene" the higher likelihood that some outlet will grab the raw feed. If you expect it to be a great visual you can grab it with volunteers. Collect the images, track down email and contact information on people recording the event.

6. delivering essentially the same news repetitively without any meaningful updating.

The initial story matters. Plan your campaign and events for short burst of attention not a big ongoing story.

7. Journalistic standards now vary even inside a single news organization. ... a mass audience for news not in one place, but across different programs, products and platforms......the way that advertising intermingles with news stories on many newspaper Web sites would never be allowed in print.

You need a database of all the distribution channels associated with an outlet. Advocacy groups also need to think about exploiting the loose rules on advertising. If there is an upcoming report on water quality by the states or feds see if you can get an online ad for connecting people to your group. Ask your local news outlets (TV, News and Radio) for a sales pitches from the advertising department to see what options they offer for "placement". You don't want just ads you want on air personalities to wear your tee-shirt, hat, etc. How much would it cost to develop a Friday river report for the summer months?

8. public perception evident in various polls that the news media lack professionalism and are motivated by financial and self-aggrandizing motives rather than the public interest.

When the media screws up attack them. They are weak in the public's perceptions and the y screw up advocacy stories all the time.

9.Study shows general increases in journalist workload, declines in numbers of reporters, shrinking space in newscasts to make more room for ads and promotions

Again. Prepackage your key messages in short blast. Think about ways to use ads and promotions to move your message.

10. Traditional media is in TROUBLE..the economics are not looking good and audience is shrinking.

Advocacy groups had better start thinking about the alternatives and new ways to move messages directly to target groups without the media.

11. Online journalism appears to be leading more to convergence with older media rather than replacement of it. When audience trends are examined closely, one cannot escape the sense that the nation is heading toward a situation, especially at the national level, in which institutions that were once in different media, such as CBS and The Washington Post, will be direct competitors on a single primary field of battle - online. The idea that the medium is the message increasingly will be passé. This is an exciting possibility that offers the potential of new audiences, new ways of storytelling, more immediacy and more citizen involvement.

Onlione.Online.Online.....Online

12. Those who would manipulate the press and public appear to be gaining leverage over the journalists who cover them. Several factors point in this direction. One is simple supply and demand. As more outlets compete for their information, it becomes a seller's market for information. Another is workload. The content analysis of the 24-hour-news outlets suggests that their stories contain fewer sources. The increased leverage enjoyed by news sources has already encouraged a new kind of checkbook journalism, as seen in the television networks efforts to try to get interviews with Michael Jackson and Jessica Lynch, the soldier whose treatment while in captivity in Iraq was exaggerated in many accounts.

While I would not expect any checks for your story ...make your story pre-packaged and easy to cover. when you have the "hot" issue of the moment be prepared to take much more intense volume of interest because of these dynamics.

May 14, 2004 in Advocacy, Current Affairs, GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Media Training, Network Advocacy, Online Press Rooms, Working with The Press | Permalink

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