How Traditional Media Outlets Evolved From Offline to Approachable – An Eyewitness Account
By Steven Read, Senior Pre-Sales Consultant, Marketwired
I’ve worked at Marketwired (and its predecessors) for quite a while and have witnessed first-hand how traditional media outlets – at least the savvy ones – changed with the times. They’ve adapted to how people find and interact with information and have created a new, friendlier way to engage with them.
Let me digress a moment to give you some background. On my first day at work here I arrived bright and early with my shiny shoes, my silkiest floral tie and a woollen suit that was utterly inappropriate for public transport in August. After the traditional tour of fire exits, toilets and a few cups of tea I was shown to my desk, which then consisted of a telephone, a pen and a large pad of paper printed with a seemingly endless list of journalists’ names, addresses, phone and fax numbers. It was my job to call the journalists, check their contact details and record any changes on the sheets of paper that would later be entered into the database that once a month magically transformed itself into a series of seven printed media directories.
That morning I made what turned out to be the first of many thousands of calls to journalists over the next few years. I quickly learned that “journalist” was a wide catch-all term used to describe an incredibly diverse range of people. Almost all were experts in their field, but I was unprepared for just how diverse UK media was then. I still look back with fondness at some of my favourite areas of those media directories. Of particular interest were trade and technical magazines, with “Goats” being a personal favourite.
Soon into my glittering career as a media researcher I caught my first journalist at the wrong time in the wrong place and duly had a stripe torn off me. That sort of thing is bound to happen once in a while if you’re dealing with national newspaper journalists who are regularly bombarded with information and someone calls you about 30 minutes before your print deadline to check they’ve got the most appropriate channels to bombard you on. It’s an occupational hazard that many people who deal with journalists on a regular basis will recognise.
Whilst unpleasant, there’s little that you do about this if your place in the food chain exposes you to the ire of an influential journalist. That is, until now when media outlets are beginning to embrace new channels of communication and are becoming more ‘social’.
The Influencers – Then and Now
Although it was some years before the term entered regular usage, journalists were the original influencers; to involve them in your conversation was to broaden the reach of your conversation beyond measure. For example, News of the World was Britain’s biggest selling Sunday newspaper and sold over 4 million copies throughout the 90s. These weren’t clicks or visitors but people actively purchasing a physical product. There was no need for authority scoring to tell you that these were influencers.
Today an influential voice can arise from a wide variety of areas. Anyone who produces content with which large numbers of people engage wields influence. But constantly evolving search algorithms make it very difficult to rely on a name and expect traffic to follow. This is one of the main reasons why traditional media outlets have adopted the more approachable and conversational attitude toward their content favoured by bloggers. Content and conversations are what matter today.
Get Your Messages to Publishers Seen
Social media offers the opportunity for direct engagement with journalists, but in terms of visibility these conversations are not always easy to find on platforms such as Twitter. However, comments on a media outlet’s website are visible to all and provide instant recognition of how engaging a particular piece of content is. Most important, those comments and that conversation stay on the site.
The comments eco-system on traditional media outlets’ domains has become increasingly complex. The comment statistics page for the Mail Online showcases how comments have been embraced by both site visitors and the publishers themselves. Like many publishers, the Mail Online offer visitors the opportunity to vote for comments without registration, encouraging visitors to join the conversation and regular posters to comment. This enables visitors to see the top positively and negatively rated comments. Active commenters themselves are also rated, creating an influence hierarchy amongst comment writers themselves.
Having spent so many years watching the media industry in decline it’s great to see a publisher embracing new technology to empower its readers and encourage interaction with its content. And on a personal note, it’s also nice to know those who find themselves on the receiving end of a dressing down from a journalist have more recourse than I had back in the day: