Deep into the Great Recession over a year ago, print media, namely newspapers, were hurting badly. Faced with readers who are increasingly obtaining their news on the Internet, mostly for free, any downturn that would hit their advertising revenue would most likely be a fatal blow. Pundits were declaring the death of print with its unsustainable business model in the age of the world wide web. But here we are in the summer of 2010 and print is still here, though still a shadow of its former self. What happened was the slow realization that newspapers should do what they do best, which is specialized content. No longer will there be dedicated people competing for the same story as other publications; they will pay for the stories, not the journalist.
Here in Beijing, I come across journalists from all over the world from very obscure newspapers and magazines (though this is becoming increasingly rare). Why do so many newspapers need foreign corespondents who will all be chasing the same stories? Before the Great Recession, this was easily justifiable because they had the resources to do so. Not so much anymore as revenue dries up, and, as a result, foreign corespondents (among others) get the axe because of their extremely high, some would say outlandish, overheads. What is left will be specialized journalists who will be reporting for multiple publications, something that we already see happening. They will be regional experts and will sell their stories to the highest bidder.
In terms of communications, this presents the problem that there will be fewer people out there to hear your story pitch. These "super influencers" will need more than just a simple pitch to get their attention. These journalists will be seen as VIPs and will expect nothing less than VIP level of service. That comes back to our belief that " content is king". Creating detailed content with relevant pictures or video – a complete story package – will be required to get your story published. This will be true not only for print, but also web based news, as print and web based news gradually merge as new media consumption devices come on the market.
I got the idea for this post while reading an Economistarticle on the fate of print media on my iPad. Newspapers, in the form of dead trees, may be on the way out, but the companies themselves will not as they move their business over to devices such as tablet computers and e-readers. That is still some ways off, but the idea that specialized content is the way forward is already here and that means that the journalists who are left will be true experts in their field of reporting. Getting their attention will require more than just a friendly phone call.
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