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.