Thursday, March 21, 2013

Journalism, Social Media, and Adirondack Marketing

Pew2013DigitalHave you altogether stopped watching, reading or listening to your go-to news source because it doesn’t provide the information you’re seeking? Well, you’re not alone.

The recently released Pew Research Center’s Annual Report on American Journalism, “The State of the News Media 2013”, finds that the power of journalism continues to shrink as the news industry continues to cut jobs and news coverage. In fact, estimates for the decline in newsroom employment – at newspapers – in 2012 is down 30 percent since its peak in 2000.

And it’s not just newspapers. From Pew’s news release: “On local television, where audiences were down across every key time slot in 2012, news stories have shrunk in length, and, compared with 2005, coverage of government has been cut in half and sports, weather and traffic now account for 40% of the content.”

Radio is in better shape. The Pew Research Center finds one-third of adults report having listened to “news radio yesterday.” That is down considerably from 43% in 2000 and 52% in 1990, but higher than the percentage of respondents who reported having read a newspaper “yesterday.”

At the same time, 31% of Americans have stopped tuning to a news outlet because it no longer provides them with the news they were accustomed to getting.

And they aren’t aware of the direct correlation between news media staff cutbacks and consumer abandonment. Interestingly, 60% of Americans say they aren’t aware of the news industry’s financial struggles. They must think that the traditional media has stopped trying to produce in-depth coverage – when really, they are just losing the capacity to do so.

For our regional media, it’s not all bad news (pardon the pun?). Although NPR continued to lose audience in 2012, the Pew report indicates that the public radio network may have at least partly served those listeners with the development of news apps. In fact, I commend our regional station, NCPR, for its flexibility in successfully implementing a digital layer to diversify its reach, and for integrating editorial/blog content with comments and social sharing to engage in further conversation with their audience, too.  And regional weekly newspapers do contain content of interest to the households they serve – with a successful, advertising-supported model that is directly distributed via USPS for free to residents and is enhanced with online presence and social network sharing.

I have a great relationship with our extremely busy local media reporters – many of whom I can immediately reach with an email, a Tweet or a Facebook message; and they can reach me as a local resource via my always-present smartphone. To promote our Adirondack destinations’ experiences, though, my primary task is to get our message out in our feeder market media in places like the New York metro area and Quebec.

So where are consumers getting their news? 72% of Americans get most news from friends and family via word of mouth. And social media is a growing component: 15% of US adults, and closer to 25% of 18-29-year olds, get most of their news from friends and family through social media. The vast majority say they then seek out news stories to learn more.

As a destination marketing communications professional, the state of the media report is no surprise.  And our strategy for promoting our Adirondack destinations has evolved over the years to encompass not only traditional media, but to enhance that coverage by taking advantage of the increased opportunities to send our messages directly to the public.

In fact, everyone from government agencies to PR and marketing folks for private companies have the tools and resources at our disposal to distribute the news ourselves – to both the media, and direct to consumers.

I’m writing this article, of course, direct to the consumer via a regional, digital-only news media source.  And, this particular news source was initially developed because its founder wasn’t finding the regional news coverage that he sought from traditional media – and that was over 7 years ago!

So why am I tackling this topic? Because as a representative of the region’s destination marketing organization, I want to remind tourism-related businesses in the region that they should take note of these trends in news distribution, because in addition to the organizations and companies who are gaining more voice in the media marketplace, every person with a smart phone is also a citizen journalist.

Of course, everyone has access to photo sharing networks like Pinterest and Instagram, and microblogs like Twitter, and networks to reach friends and professional colleagues like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and more. Now, more than ever, citizen journalists also have personal blogs of their own that they can use to write stories about their Adirondack adventures; some with great potential reach via social sharing.  And they aren’t necessarily telling the business they’re reviewing what they’re up to.

My point here is that good old customer service has never been more important. It is critical that we are all aware of how crucial it is to create a positive consumer experience – every time.  Because your customer, or visitor, or client is reporting on that experience right now – directly to their entire social network; complete with pictures, anecdotes and smiley (or frowny) emoticon faces.

It all goes back to this: consumers’ appetites for news haven’t diminished, but the number of opportunities they have to access information has dramatically increased. More often than not, third party validation of a product – whether it is your hotel, restaurant, attraction or town – doesn’t come from the media. It comes from your customers.

Are you ready for your closeup?

The complete Pew Research Center report is available online.

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Kim Rielly is the director of communications for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

9 Responses

  1. During my three years of service as the public affairs officer, 380th Bombardment Wing, Plattsburgh Air Force Base, I was among the founding members of the Adirondack Press Club.We even had T-shirts bearing a nice logo and had quarterly meetings over dinner; the ones I remember were at Hotel Saranac, a restaurant in Ticonderoga, and Cafe Mooney Bay. I was invited to be a member of the Club in recognizing my journalism background and status then as editor of The Champlaner, the weekly newspaper that my staff and I produced for Plattsburgh AFB. My question: Whatever became of the Adirondack Press Club?

  2. jay says:

    Fox news is the only truth.

    • Bill Quinlivan says:

      Fox is as far from journalism as you can get. It is politico propaganda — the keeper of the bubble!

      • Paul says:

        Fox News does represent a counter balance to the talking points coming out of the White House, they must be doing something right for the president to come after them.

  3. I’m chuckling as I am reading your column, Kimberly, as I listen to NCPR in the background, after checking my Twitter feed for the morning news. Many of the new “news sources” you mention did not even exist ten years ago, and many of the traditional sources have fallen victim to the creative destruction of the digital age. Some traditional media have adopted – even improved their delivery – by integrating internet resources into their content (This site, NCPR, and the New York Times come to mind. Many others – particularly many local “home town” newspapers – are struggling because they simply make today’s newspaper (which is now yesterday’s news) available in a digital subscription. There is no value added and that business model is doomed to fail. I wonder if the Pew numbers understate how bad it really is out there. “One third of respondents listened to news on radio”. Are we counting Rush as news? 🙂

  4. Pete Klein says:

    Eventually people are going to notice the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.
    Social media is not a real source of news. It is little more than gossip.
    “72% of Americans get most news from friends and family via word of mouth. And social media is a growing component: 15% of US adults, and closer to 25% of 18-29-year olds, get most of their news from friends and family through social media.”
    The above are often tainted with spin or editorializing if you prefer.
    Facebook and Twitter can sometimes be useful but they have major limitations. Unless you have the time to sit there, postings on Twitter and Facebook are just garbage heaped upon garbage.
    Use them and enjoy them if you must but realize they are little more than gossip over the fence.

  5. Paul says:

    I find the main stream media guilty of journalistic malpractice because they side with a political motivation, they are not interested in the truth, just advancing an agenda to sway the readers, knowing what they say and print will be taken as the truth.

  6. Bill Quinlivan says:

    Sorry to say, the free press and real journalism is dead in America. This is unfortunate in that the vacuum that it has left has been filled with “news” that is either political commentary or entertainment. I am a correspondent for a small local paper and I find the folks in my town to be avid readers, keeping abreast of what is going on in our little micro-community. For news, I find myself listening to NCPR, watching the BBC and PBS and quite often going to the Guardian website that I find to be very refreshing and offering an alternative to our cloistered view of the world. Bill Moyers is great, but doesn’t do much anymore.

  7. Great read Kim and well written. most of the comment post’ers missed your point completely… customer service! If the customer aint happy, they are going to take up Facebook and/or Twitter and all the rest to gripe! As far as the mainstream media moving to digital only, The Frontpage – The New York Times ponders this point in the movie, resorting to paywalls… giving teasers and then having to subscribe to read the rest. Another revenue stream to suport the falling print (advertising) sales.

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