Traditional media: down but not out

This week’s revelation in UK Press Gazette that jobs in local newspapers have suffered a 40 per cent decline in the last five years should come as no surprise to the industry. The local organs on which many young journalists began their careers (me included) have undoubtedly just been through the worst decade in their history.

Circulation of paid for titles has been plummeting and revenue only ever seems to be on a downward trajectory. Exceptions (such as the Kent Messenger Group) are exactly that: exceptions which prove the rule.

The reasons for this decline have been widely discussed and there’s no point in me regurgitating them here. If you are interested you’ll find this analysis by my former Tameside Advertiser colleague Dave Porter hard to beat.

The same Press Gazette article revealed similar, though less dramatic, revenue falls at most of the nationals. Interestingly the FT has been bucking the trend, with revenue growth of 21 per cent, while the Telegraph’s ‘no change’ looks positive against a backdrop of general decline. Richard Desmond’s Express Newspapers has suffered the biggest revenue fall – down 26 per cent in half a decade.

So does this mean those of us in pr should call time on the ‘traditional press’ and focus all our efforts on the shiny new world of digital pr and social media? Not quite, I’d argue.

It’s certainly true that businesses and organisations looking to promote their products and services, protect their reputations and communicate with their customers have to embrace the online world. They must and should pay close attention to what’s being said about them on the blogs, on Twitter and Facebook et al. And they should do their level best to take up the unique
opportunities provided by ‘new media’ to talk directly to their stakeholders and buyers.

But ‘traditional’ media (most of which has moved onto the web anyway – Private Eye being the most noble exception) is also ignored at your peril. Newspapers still reach big audiences (look at the Daily Mail’s 70 million unique weekly user count).  And in the B2B world, firms still look to their ‘trade’ press for industry news and to find out who’s moving and shaking. Social media and digital pr just means they’re not the only show in town anymore.

I recently helped a client secure a hugely positive page lead with photos in the Daily Record, Scotland’s biggest selling newspaper. They were delighted. And why wouldn’t they be – they’d just reached 1.3 million readers. It would be churlish to suggest this doesn’t count for much in the digital pr landscape we now find ourselves operating in. The traditional media may be down, but it certainly isn’t out just yet.

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