When I first joined Cookerly four years ago, newspapers were in a state of upheaval. During my first year, it seemed a major newspaper downsized, closed or sold to a conglomerate every week. A common explanation for the industry’s troubles held that newspapers were too slow to embrace online content and that publishers didn’t realize their readers would begin consuming more of their news online.
Well now they’re playing catch-up. If 2009 was the year the newspaper died, as a Business Insider article proclaimed, now is the era of picking up the pieces.
I haven’t met anybody who thinks newspapers have figured out how to deliver good journalism and get paid adequately for it, but the mindset among reporters and editors I’ve talked with has shifted from incredulous at the industry’s steep decline to acceptance of what their audience now wants.
And what consumers (yep, consumers, not readers) want is diverse, stimulating online content, from long-form journalism to video interviews and interesting photos. Newspapers are still catching up to the technological capabilities of the web, and it’s not an easy or inexpensive task.
In the last three months, I’ve had more reporters talk about the need for video than in all of 2011. Even in the midst of downsizing and tight budgets, reporters are looking for ways to enrich the user experience. Their new content needs present a real opportunity for PR practitioners and companies seeking coverage.
Below are three adjustments the communications profession should consider, whether at the agency or corporate level.
1. At minimum, know what resources are at your disposal in case a reporter asks about video. Do you have a videographer on staff? Is your spokesperson media trained and capable of executing an on-camera interview?
2. Offer video content in your initial pitch to reporters. Develop concepts that are easy to execute and quick to turn around, and then use the ideas to help sell reporters on story ideas.
3. Consider learning about video content creation. In a landscape where successful bloggers post videos shot at an airport before boarding a flight to Hong Kong, it behooves PR professionals to know the basics of producing video content – even if it’s on a Mac or iPhone.
PR will change with the media industry, and successful practitioners will realize their job is much broader than pitching stories to newspapers and bloggers. We purveyors of ideas will increasingly become producers of content as reporters confront more budget and time-constraints. We should begin adjusting now to that reality or, like newspapers, we’ll be catching up to the innovators who saw the changes coming and adapted early.