Never judge a book by its cover? A look at visual trends in media.

Shocking headlines are nothing new. In fact, they are often how we choose what media to consume and what stories to read. As PR professionals, we know that people are hit with thousands of messages through words and images every day. It is part of our job to get people to sort through those messages and consume our client’s brands.

However, recently it seems that newspaper covers are getting more graphic and more grotesque, inappropriately so, and for what end? To increase sales. For example, on September 13, the day after the brutal killing of the United States ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, the cover of New York Daily News featured a photograph of Ambassador Stevens after the brutal attack.

On the same day, the cover of New York Metro read, “Woman, 73, beaten, raped in Central Park.” While the Metro stopped short of printing a picture, the headline is enough to conjure an image and desire to read more.

Just a few weeks ago, after a shooting at the Empire State Building left two dead and nine wounded, The New York Post, had a graphic cover with the gunman and victims lying bleeding in the streets.

Should there be a limit to what the media is allowed to print on the cover? Or is print media just leveraging images to keep up with the trend of visuals, a trend seen all over the internet? Maybe we don’t want to read the news anymore, we’d rather see it.

Because so much news is now consumed via the Internet, and no longer in print form, publications have to compete more intensely for hard-copy sales. Twitter, Facebook and other social media enable news to be shared easily. People can access quick news updates for free, and many no longer feel the need to purchase full issues of daily newspapers.

Daily paid newspaper circulation has fallen 30 percent since 1990.  With readership and circulation dwindling, advertisers are turning away from newspapers as well.  The amount of money spent on newspaper advertisements has decreased for the past seven years. Between 2010 and 2011, newspaper advertisement expenditures fell 10.5 percent. How the media is addressing these trends varies, however to combat low sales, many publications choose shocking photographs and headlines.

As PR professionals, it is important to evaluate how we can make media pitches mesh with these trends. To get noticed today by print reporters, we need our pitches to be visually intriguing. Including images, infographics, charts and graphs in every media relations pitch will be the key to successful results, as well as helping keep the newspaper industry alive. Without them we’ll loose an important source of communication.

A year from now we’ll be crafting our pitches to reflect what’s hot for reporters’ needs, and it will most likely be different from what we’re doing now.

What do you think a pitch to a print publication will look like a year from now?


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