Are newspapers still relevant?

My former newspaper colleague asked a central question recently: “When you pitch stories on behalf of your clients, do you still contact newspapers?”

There was both doubt and hope behind the question from the 40-year veteran of the newspaper business. His industry had just weathered a week like none other. The Washington Post ($250 million), The Boston Globe ($70 million) and Newsweek (undisclosed price) all had been sold.  By comparison, consider that Yahoo recently purchased microblogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion!

Closer to home, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reduced its home delivery schedule, and the publisher of Crain’s Cleveland Business announced his pending retirement.

What my former colleague really was asking was whether newspapers still reached audiences that matter. Undeniably, the answer is yes. But they do so via multiple means, including print, their websites and email alerts. And they are in competition with a growing universe of information sources and work at speeds that all too often lead to damaging inaccuracies. 

The chaotic media landscape has blurred to the point where it is difficult for companies and organizations to communicate their stories to valued media and still reach their desired audiences. A dominating certainty is that the lines between print, broadcast, pure digital and social media will continue to disintegrate, further fragmenting the media world and increasing its complexity.

How can companies hope to tell their stories effectively, even as the media continually experiment with various formats and platforms? Here are five tips that should help:

Be as innovative with your communications strategy as your organization is with its business strategy. Journalists need information in a variety of forms, from video to quick facts and easily arranged interviews. Can your executives shift from a print interview to a video interview via Skype?

Re-examine your virtual newsrooms. Time-pressed journalists need information that is accurate and readily available on your website. Informative and timely videos, case studies, white papers, fact sheets, media kits, speeches and articles should be cataloged for easy and swift download and consumption. After all, reporters are only ahead of the competition until the next tweet.

Expand your network of contacts. Although print newspapers are dwindling in circulation and heft, the reach and power of journalism is growing. It is an odd dynamic driven by technology and the public’s growing appetite for information from an endless variety of sources. The days of establishing relationships with only a few key reporters are gone.

Monitor the fragmented media. You must be aware of content on everything from local blogs to “hyper-local” sites such as Patch to new media such as BuzzFeed and Business Insider to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Delete the terms “traditional media” and “traditional communications” from your lexicon. The media were forced to break from tradition long ago, and nothing will ever be the same.

So how did I answer my former colleague? Of course I still pitch newspaper journalists. Along with bloggers. And pure digital journalists. After following them on Twitter.  

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