By Katherine Gotts, SVP, Research and Analytics
A decade ago, even the savviest futurist might have been hard pressed to accurately envision today’s news environment and culture. Social media and online news have equalized the media machine, diminishing the difference in influence between traditional journalism and fledgling blogs, newsletters and even popular social handles.
COVID-19, as it has in so many areas, accelerated new trends across the media landscape, including the unfortunate shrinking of newsrooms. Against this backdrop, the Access Intelligence team has prepared a report examining the ways in which the pandemic has both fast-tracked and complicated the shifting media landscape – with insights and tips to help PR practitioners adjust earned media strategies accordingly.
“The nature of the local and national media landscape continues to be buffeted by economic, social and political pressures – with no signs of foundational changes slowing down as we enter year two of the pandemic,” said Conor Febos, Access VP, Media. “Core to our focus at Access is staying ahead of these changes while helping our clients break through and adapt in an ever-evolving industry that continues to be equal parts exhilarating and challenging.”
You can read the full report here. Meanwhile, we’ll cut to the chase with 7 key issues and ways you should be thinking about each:
1. The ever-smaller newsroom
The economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically hastened job loss in newsrooms. In 2020, journalism saw record layoffs and job cuts, with more than 16,160 jobs lost – a 200% increase.
2. A revolution in news consumption habits
The ways in which news is disseminated and consumed has seen dramatic change. Journalists are increasingly moving away from traditional newsrooms to alternative formats like email newsletters. The media’s shift to digital has accelerated during the pandemic, with audience metrics and social media “shareability” key drivers for media outreach.
3. News deserts and the decline of local media
Local news outlets have been forced to cut costs, reduce the size of newsrooms, or shut down entirely. Over the past 15 years, more than 2,000 U.S. newspapers have closed – more than a quarter of the total newspapers in the country. The brunt of the loss has taken place in local newspapers.
4. Corporate influence and tech industry backlash
As Big Tech expands its influence over how information is distributed and accessed, tension between them and media is increasing. Though many large tech brands have taken steps to offset their impact on journalism, news outlets are losing billions in revenue as readers increasingly find their news on social media platforms and aggregators.
5. Newsroom culture in the era of remote work
Remote work has drastically changed the dynamics of many newsrooms, with journalists and other media professionals forced to alter how they collaborate and communicate with coworkers. Some publications have also cut their real estate to save costs during the worst of the pandemic.
6. Burnout in journalism
As with workers in many industries, journalists and other media professionals have seen the pandemic take a toll on their mental health. According to the Journalism and the Pandemic Survey, 70% of polled journalists reported psychological issues as their most difficult obstacle to overcome during the pandemic. PR professionals can maintain strong relationships with journalists by being respectful of their burnout when pitching.
—Journalism and the Pandemic Survey
7. Public polarization and a crisis of trust in media
Since the 1970s, Americans have become increasingly less trustful of media. Trust has further decreased during the pandemic, in part due to a surge in misinformation. As journalists struggle to combat dwindling faith in their profession, there has been a shift toward referencing sources they find to be credible.
So, where does this all lead? What should clients, communities, executives, etc. expect from wholesale changes in news consumption and the way information is presented by outlets? The 7 key issues outlined in this blog are just the start to understanding where we stand as PR professionals. But as much as COVID has challenged how the media landscape will move forward, it’s also reminded us how exciting change can be. The media revolution will continue to be televised, tweeted and blogged about – are you ready?