More news outlets. Fewer news sources.

We now have 24 hour news channels, scores of news websites, and thousands of news oriented blogs. Does than mean we're getting more news?

Actually, no. And that has an impact on your public relations efforts.

There's a great presentation at by Alisa Miller, CEO of Public Radio International, that breaks down U. S. news coverage for the month of February 2007. Ms. Miller notes that in a month where news included major stories such as North Korea dismantling its nuclear facilities, flooding in Indonesia, and new studies that proved man's impact on global warming, one particular story dominated U.S. airwaves and websites:

The death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Her death was covered more than news about any country except Iraq, and garnered 10 times more coverage than the global warming study.

News networks are shrinking. U.S. news resources have reduced their foreign bureaus by half, and virtually no American news bureaus exist now in Africa, India, or South America. We get more news about Anna Nicole and Britney because it is much cheaper to cover those stories, and because they draw bigger U.S. audiences.

Is this a danger? In an increasingly interconnected world, it seems so. And it can have tragic consequences. Christiane Amanpour recently did an amazing documentary for CNN called "Scream Bloody Murder," in which she traces the history and consequences of major genocides events in the 20th century. One observation: Many Americans didn't notice the early nineties genocides in Rawanda because of news outlets' focus on the O.J. Simpson trial, which likely delayed international response.

Interestingly, studies show that 52% of Americans now say they closely follow overseas news (up from 37% a few years ago). But studies also show that American college graduates today actually know less about world events than their counterparts of 20 years ago.

We think we have more news. We do have more resources, but we are focused on fewer news stories. And this is something marketers need to be aware of, particularly as they implement public relations programs.

Where do we get our news? A Pew Research Center study shows this breakout:
  • Local TV news 70%

  • Local daily paper 55%

  • Network evening news 45%

  • Fox News Channel 42%

  • CNN 39%

  • Network morning shows 33%

  • Public radio 28%

  • Google, Yahoo, etc. 23%

  • News magazines 22%

  • TV news websites 21%
When you look at this, consider that many local TV news sources have disappeared. One local station's newscast may be broadcast on two local channels, as the smaller station cuts out the major expense of running its own news department. Then look at how newspapers are shrinking.

And studies show that online news sources are mostly pickups of wire service stories.
It's not just general news sources, either. Specialty and enthusiasts news is also shrinking. Shelter publications (home and living magazines) were once considered recession proof (people cocooned during tough times and spent more on making their homes look nice), but a number of major titles have folded and ad pages are down double digits.

Almost everywhere, we think we have more news sources. But a close look suggests we may actually have less. Because with limited staff and fewer pages, many outlets may not have the people or space to pick up the story on your company.

That doesn't mean you can't get your story told. You may have to approach it differently than in times past. Here are some thoughts:

1. Tailor stories to news outlets. In the past, one press release might do. Now you may need more, tweaked to fit the style, length, and content direction of outlets that are important to you. You've probably already done this some; now you may have to do more. This can also help the publication that's short staffed. (Be careful about favoring one competing source over another; try to give each something unique.)
2. Figure the shelf-life of your story is shorter as "news," but longer as reference. A story that gets picked up may only be front page on a news website for a few hours. But it has almost a permanent presence on the web afterward. Search for additional places to link your story--blogs, second-tier sources, etc. That improves its visibility in search.

3. Maintain your own newsroom online. Editors will search for related stories more than anyone, and we often see months-old stories get active again when a reporter is working on a similar piece on the same topic.

4. Distribute stories to key audiences yourself. It's easy enough to have a database of key customers and prospects. Make sure they get copied in. One phenomenon: Many people who read your news release now will later think they saw it in a publication or on the news.

5. Help reporters do their jobs. Remember, there are fewer of them working longer hours. Giving them tips or background on stories they're covering, even if the stories don't include your company, can be greatly appreciated, and you'll get a more sympathetic ear later when you pitch your story.

If you’d like to know more, get in touch with BrainPosse by clicking here or calling (865) 330-0033.