Public Relations, Social Media

Breaking Down Pew’s State of the Media 2014 – Part 1

By Steve Pludwin | On March 27, 2014

On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released their much-anticipated annual state of the media report. While commentators have been quick to offer their analysis of what the report means for journalists and the news industry, here at Tech Affect, we’re breaking down what the report means for PR professionals.

Keeping pace with changes in the news industry is critical to providing strategic communications counsel. An intimate understanding of the latest media tools and trends allows us to build campaigns tailored to the specific needs of our clients that drive results. With this in mind, over the coming weeks we’ll be taking an in-depth look at some of the report’s findings with an eye towards how they impact the PR landscape.

While the full report covers far too much terrain to do justice to in this space, highlighted below are three specific trends worth taking note of.

 1.     Digital News Outlets on the Rise

Over the past year, some of the most meaningful growth in the news industry took place in the digital space. 2013 saw the expansion of digital native news sites and the migration of top-tier journalism talent from traditional outlets to digital news players. Armed with an acute understanding of how technology and content interact, these digital outlets are filling gaps in coverage left by shrinking newsrooms. Though native digital media still represents just a fraction of the entire news industry, the ways in which they are using new platforms to drive user traffic, foster engagement and cultivate innovative modes of storytelling are certainly noteworthy.

What this means for PR pros – To be sure, the notion that digital media outlets are serious players is not necessarily novel. PR professionals have long regarded native digital news sites like the Huffington Post and Mashable as worthy pitch targets. The question, however, is what the continued growth of digital news means for the future of PR. As digital news sites come into their own and take their seat at the table among leading news outlets, PR professionals should be thinking about what opportunities and challenges this new media landscape presents. In part two of this series, we’ll take an in-depth look at digital news and the steps PR pros can take to build successful relationships and secure coverage for their clients.

2.     News Consumption Goes Social

The trend of more people accessing news and content via social media platforms and mobile devices continues to grow. According to the report, “half of social network users share or repost news stories, images and videos.” In this regard, Pew offers a number of significant data points on news consumption via social media including the range of shared topics, levels of engagement and the most popular platforms. When it comes to news consumption and levels of engagement, it’s clear that not all social media channels are created equal. For example, while Facebook and Twitter figure prominently as potential news sources, other platforms, like Instagram and Pinterest, are less likely to function as go-to sites for news consumption.  

What this means for PR pros – PR professionals are well aware that good communications strategy often entails integration with social media. But doing this effectively requires a refined understanding of your target audiences and the specific platforms they use to consume and share content. The data offered in the report sheds light on patterns of behavior that can be used to inform both content development and distribution. In part three of this series, we’ll explore social media behavior with an eye toward developing tactics that ensure your social media efforts are not in vain.

3.     Digital Video Gains Momentum

Online video consumption continues to grow steadily, with 63% of American’s watching videos online, and more than half of those surveyed getting their news through similar channels. Though online video still represents a fairly small share of larger ad budgets, it’s clear that both digital and traditional news outlets are becoming more active in the digital video space. Most interesting, however, are the demographic patterns around the rates of online video consumption. Specifically, younger Americans are viewing online video at significantly higher levels compared to their older counterparts. The Pew survey found that while 9 in 10 18-29 year olds watch online video, and almost half consume online news video, just 49% of 30-49 year olds and 27% of 50-64 year olds do the same.

What this means for PR pros – The growing popularity of content marketing has led many communications professionals to start thinking beyond the written word. Digital video can certainly serve as a unique and exciting content delivery vehicle. But the Pew data makes clear that a sound content strategy should be informed by an understanding of your target audiences and the ways in which they consume content on an ongoing basis. In part four of this series, we’ll discuss different methods for content delivery in order to keep audiences engaged and coming back for more.

Developing communications strategies that deliver results depends on understanding both sides of the media landscape, from the ever-evolving news industry to ongoing changes in how the public consumes news content. To this end, Pew’s annual report is an indispensable tool for PR professionals. Join us next week as we break down how to maximize communications efforts in the age of digital news.



Steve Pludwin

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