Surveying the Journalism and Public Relations Landscape:
AN INTERVIEW WITH JIM RICH
Are you a journalist curious about the future of the media landscape? Do you live in the PR world and find trouble optimizing your pitch process? What social media platform should you be using for your professional outreach? Luckily for you, we have some top-notch perspective! We sat down with our Editor-at-Large Jim Rich to discuss all these burning industry questions and more!
1) HOW DO YOU THINK VIDEO WILL PLAY A ROLE IN JOURNALISM IN THE FUTURE?
I think the role and value of video has been drastically downgraded recently, and in many ways, that isn’t surprising. The “pivot to video” that has been so popular in news media in recent years has run into a couple of uncomfortable realities: 1. Not all video is created equally. Quality matters, as does relevance and appropriateness. By that, I mean, does a video enhance a story or is it just there because we as publishers are hoping to cash in on the higher CPM attached to video? If the video is superfluous to the story, most readers can’t be tricked consistently enough to draw any value from even doing that video. 2. For a long time, publishers and advertisers have convinced themselves that video is what people who consume content prefer – especially young people. Unfortunately, that just isn’t consistently true. It’s reasonable enough to understand why publishers and advertisers have wanted this to be the case: On paper, there is more revenue attached to video. But, with rare exception, the video gold rush has not been realized by news companies. That doesn’t mean video is dead or is without value. It simply means that publishers and advertisers need to reassess how, when and why they are doing video. And that strategy needs to go beyond the idea that “video generates more revenue, so let’s do videos and make more money!”
2) HOW DOES RESEARCH ADD VALUE TO A PRESS RELEASE IN YOUR OPINION?
Dangling research in front of news editors is like placing a piece of raw meat in front of a German Shepard. Good research is the stuff of good stories – it gives the credibility and scientific objectivity that journalists crave. Plus, it generally is attached to findings that yield interesting conclusions and observations on human behavior – another wildly attractive element for journos. But, and this is a critical but, editors and reporters are paid to spend their days sniffing out BS. So make sure that your research and findings are beyond reproach, and also that they are truly compelling. If not, journalists will see through your pitch and be much less likely to even give a second look at any of your follow-ups.
3) WHICH SOCIAL NETWORK PLATFORMS ADD THE MOST VALUE PROFESSIONALLY?
For simply staying informed, Twitter wins, hands down. As a distribution vehicle, Facebook – with all its warts – still works best. Though their algorithm has become less reliable/friendly to news content over the past two years, and that poses its own challenges.
4) DO YOU MIND IT WHEN PRS FOLLOW YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Don’t mind it. The more the merrier.
5) IN YOUR OPINION WHATS THE MAX NUMBER OF PITCHES A PR SHOULD SEND A WEEK?
That number should be informed more by quality than quantity. If you have 1 million pitches and they are truly great, send them along. If the pitches aren’t great, most journalists don’t want any.
6) ARE PHONE PITCHES DEAD?
Yes. Unless I’ve agreed, via email first, to chat with you by phone, I don’t want or have time for a phone call. Most journalists have that same mindset.
7) THE NEWS WORLD IS UNDERGOING CHANGE BECAUSE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM ON BLOGS, THE ABILITY TO CONSTANTLY UPDATE STORIES ONLINE AND PEOPLE JUST ARE NOT PREPARED TO PAY FOR NEWS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS AND HOW IT WILL CHANGE THE NEWS WORLD?
The biggest crisis facing the news world is creating content that is valuable. If you do that, people will want to pay for it. But valuable content is expensive to produce and usually entails rather narrow topic areas. That leaves all the general-interest publications in a bit of a bind. And that’s why so many of them are struggling. I think we are still in the bubble stage of digital media. In the near future, we will see the number of sites shrink. Those remaining will have figured out what content its audience values and how to produce it in an efficient, cost-productive manner.
8) HOW CAN PRS PREPARE THE EVOLUTION OF NEWS? AND HOW FORWARD THINKING SHOULD THEY BE WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR PITCHING?
Think beyond your product selling points. If your pitch or product is truly compelling, there will be a story hiding somewhere beneath those selling points. That’s what the journalist is looking for and expert at sussing out. They are also expert at sussing out when you don’t have compelling story somewhere in there. But it’s that side door into what makes your product interesting that will appeal to editors, and in the end, your target audience.