PEW Study Shows Continued Weakness In MSM

The results of the annual “State of the News Media” report published by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism are live today, revealing an unfortunate lack of surprises.

With the exception of cable news, revenue is down across the board, and a look at consumer behavior shows an unwillingness to pay for those online “favorites” or to click on ads. On the newsroom side, headcount at TV network divisions is down by half compared to the heyday of the 1980s, as is the case with their mainstream magazine counterparts Newsweek and TIME.

Covering the waterfront is a two-fold sticky wicket between having journalists do more with less (and promote content through social networks), and filling the gap with user-generated (UGC) citizen journalism and crowdsourcing plays.

The study notes that funds flowing in to non-profit efforts like ProPublica, Kaiser Health News and Global Post isn’t filling the gap. $141 million is just one tenth of what’s been lost in newspaper resources alone. “The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place,” according to a quote by NYU’s Clay Shirky used in the summary.

We’ll leave the the deeper analysis of broken revenue streams and the viability of paywalls to our counterparts at FishbowlNY and other media-watching outlets, and say that there are themes within that will affect and continue to shape the PR business for years to come.

Of course these declines put greater focus on marketing through social networks. If you extrapolate further however and think of PR as it relates to a stretched MSM, a premium will be put on media relations. The ability to break through early in a news cycle, broker stories or present compelling data and sources during a heated news cycles will be critical to the success of both internal and agency PR efforts. And in turn, online plays like ProPublica and more buzzy classics like The Smoking Gun will harness more UGC power to reveal the bad stuff.

The production of “earned” media–content created by the brand, organization or individual–will be the critical bridge that drives messages through to those “publics”. Ceding that ground to advertising and interactive firms is another challenge altogether.