We live in a media-centric world. And by “we,” we certainly mean Birnbach Communications but we also mean Americans. That’s true even as:
- Traditional media has been facing a tough time because their business models have been failing, despite a significant uptick in the demand for news.
- Digital media isn’t the sure thing it was once thought to be, despite the lack of traditional media’s baggage (like lack of printing presses).
- Local media outlets have been shutting down, despite the common wisdom that hyperlocal was a solution.
- People aren’t reading newspaper content on paper (but on screens) or watching TV shows on TV (but on screens).
- The shorter/faster news cycle is distracting Americans and causing news fatigue. We’re suffering from news fatigue — overwhelmed by news notifications on our phones that seems to buzz every hour. There’s never enough time to process significant news before we’re buzzed by the next alert (that may not be relevant). News is so pervasive it overtakes previously non-politicized events like sporting events, entertainment industry award ceremonies, family holiday meals, etc. That buzz is so addictive that people actively check social media to get the latest shocking news. Even reporters who don’t cover politics flood their social media timelines with political news (regardless of their political beliefs), making it harder to get their attention when pitching them. The 24/7 distraction also makes it harder for people to pay attention to your story – so it may take more touchpoints to break through the clutter.
- The incredible shrinking newsroom. A decade ago, most newsrooms used to employ more reporters to cover the news, and the amount of pages that newspapers and magazines had to fill was larger. Today, news reporters have to cover more news with fewer resources and less space. Locally, at the Boston Business Journal, a terrific weekly, staff reporters typically file four or so stories a day, may have a weekly newsletter they produce and then must write a longer article for the weekly printed edition. Radio reporters now also have to write up a print story for the website in addition to producing their stories for the radio. All of this is to say that there are fewer reporters and they have to produce much more. This makes it challenging for them to take meetings, cultivate sources, uncover stories that need to be told. According to the UNC School of Media and Journalism’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, the result of all this is that “Many newspapers have become ghosts of their former selves, both in terms of the quality and quantity of their editorial content and the reach of their readership.” (See credibility issues, below.)
- The credibility of news media is under attack. There is at least one area of commonality between liberals and conservatives: each group has key media it favors (due to confirmation bias, i.e., their echo chamber) and those outlets whose reports they disagree with and don’t believe. Americans increasingly hate either Fox or CNN; the New York Times or Wall St. Journal, for example. With Trump and others calling articles they don’t like “Fake News” or “the enemy of the people,” and people on the other side pointing to Hannity (who had said he wouldn’t campaign for Trump but then came out on stage at Trump’s last rally before the midterms), etc., the problem is that the credibility of journalist and media outlets across the spectrum is now being questioned. That’s a real problem for PR functions and agencies who work with reporters, editors and producers to tell their clients’ stories. If there are those who disbelieve the New York Times or Wall St. Journal, will they believe your organization’s news in those or other outlets? Seems doubtful.
- The war on screen time. There will be greater acknowledgment that we’re all on screens too much throughout the day. It’s a problem for everyone, not just adults. We expect more people – suffering from news fatigue, will turn off notifications on their phones so they don’t get interrupted/distracted as much. And somewhat ironically, there will be apps, like Apple’s “Screen Time” and Google’s “Family Link,” a parental controls app, that will help you manage your screen addictions.