As Availability Decreases, Value Can Only Rise

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(CC) flickr // Mannobhai
(CC) flickr // Mannobhai

Clients want it.  Publicists work for it.  But not everyone can have it.  That’s right.  I said it.  Not every brand can be a cover model.

It’s an ugly reality, but we all need to accept it.  Particularly as print publications, even well-established icons like Gourmet, cease publication.  With less publications to cover the same amount of, if not more, content, the battle for the cover, or even a column, can only become more intense.  So how will this new world work?  Is it possible that the day will come where clients won’t want print hits?  (Even I thought that sounded a little funny as I wrote it.  Can we say ‘pipe dream?’)  But, seriously.  How will it work?

The Perfect Solution

As the print hole continues to shrink at an alarming rate, one can only hope that the truly groundbreaking, unique, compelling and newsworthy dominates the print space that remains.  Pay-for-play would be a figment of our imaginations.  Ad reps would not reply to editorial pitches in lieu of their appropriate counterparts.

But let’s face it – that just isn’t going to be the ‘new’ reality.

Where It’s Headed

I think it is reasonable to assume that with less space available, the value of what remains can only escalate.  An advertising equivalency will not accurately translate the value of editorial coverage.  And let us accept that the less who can have it, the more who will want it.  That’s just how it works.

Ad revenues are already declining rapidly, so you can bet that the editorial wall can only become more illusive.  Less editorial coverage means less editorial staff.  Less staff means more shared, and less original, content.

What this Dismal Reality Means to PR

It goes without saying that quality over quantity isn’t going to be an option; it’s going to be a mandate.  Conceivably, 140 characters could become the appropriate length for email pitches – not just Twitter pitches.  Phone pitches will be delivered in a matter of seconds.

What do you think the new value of print will be?  How do you see PR pros maintaining their ability to garner print placements in an increasingly competitive landscape?

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  • elizabethbeskin

    nice post my girl, i like your writing style!

  • @jaykeith

    It's an interesting topic, but one that I think is more a question of redistribution. It's true, print publications are shutting down by the dozens, but for every high profile print publication that shuts down, 3 or 4 websites that will gather many high impact eyeballs sprout up. I think as print continues to die (and eventually it will be gone completely) what you're going to see is a very hyper targeted media online, with specific sites, reporters, and sources for very specific topics. Local news will become truly local, focusing only on impactful local stories, etc. And there will always be people who want to read about specific topics that are interesting to them. (specific sports, activities, etc.) Those that do hyper targeted topics well will succeed.

    I think that while print and cover stories used to be the “holy grail” of the PR world, really good, targeted placements in high impact websites will replace that. The reason being that if it truly reaches your (or your clients) target audience, and can ultimately bring brand awareness and then revenue, that's where the true value lies. The cover of TIME is great, but if your target audience is young males ages 15-22, what was the real impact? As the media evolves online, so will our targeting and penetration of it.

    I wouldn't think of it as less opportunity for PR, I'd think of it as more. All it takes is a refocus as well as a repositioning of goals for clients and executives, etc. The old standards are dying, we need to create new ones!

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    Sorry to be all nitpicky, because I do agree with most of what you said here, but this:

    “I think it is reasonable to assume that with less space available, the value of what remains can only escalate.”

    Seems to be based on false logic. Yes, it is more difficult to get print coverage this days, but does that necessarily make it more valuable? Print outlets haven't just shrunk in number, they've shrunk in readership. So now we have flacks putting in WAY more time and energy for fewer eyeballs.

    So why would we want that?

  • http://twitter.com/DanielleCyr DanielleCyr

    I completely agree that we have more competition for less space and that readership declines are all too real. The challenge is that there is going to be a lag between the actual decline in readership occurring and clients realizing the diminished value of print placements. I think the perception of print placement value being high is going to last quite a while.

    It's an interesting predicament to say the least!

  • @jaykeith

    Good point, but I think that if Danielle is arguing that with major print publications, like the WSJ, NYT, TIME, etc. that there is less space but their readership (and the perception that they are the “ultimate pr hit”) is still high – the value of real estate in those publications for PR flacks has increased. I agree with that for the most part. It's harder to get into a high readership pub that's shrinking, and with clients still wanting those hits, it's becoming more competitive.

    But like I said, as more and more localized and specialized sections, blogs, and webpages pop up, the value of a “big time” PR hit will continue to decline. I think that it's no longer about eyeballs, it's about eyeballs that matter, buy, promote, review, and evangelize a brand. Are you going to get that in a high readership pub? As time goes on, probably not.

  • http://twitter.com/EvilPRGuy Michael Dolan

    I think the on the ground reality when you're a flack pitching for dollars is the shrinking budgets and staffs at print magazines have an upshot for PR people. There are fewer writers and editors, especially with all the staff cuts we've seen this year. These smaller staffs are expected in most cases to turn out the same amount of articles and copies. Since they have a heavier workload, they're more likely to be receptive to pitches because it saves them time, and lets them create copy in less time, because PR can provide some of that copy. I've noticed this happening frequently in the last 18 months.

  • elizabethbeskin

    nice post my girl, i like your writing style!

  • @jaykeith

    It's an interesting topic, but one that I think is more a question of redistribution. It's true, print publications are shutting down by the dozens, but for every high profile print publication that shuts down, 3 or 4 websites that will gather many high impact eyeballs sprout up. I think as print continues to die (and eventually it will be gone completely) what you're going to see is a very hyper targeted media online, with specific sites, reporters, and sources for very specific topics. Local news will become truly local, focusing only on impactful local stories, etc. And there will always be people who want to read about specific topics that are interesting to them. (specific sports, activities, etc.) Those that do hyper targeted topics well will succeed.

    I think that while print and cover stories used to be the “holy grail” of the PR world, really good, targeted placements in high impact websites will replace that. The reason being that if it truly reaches your (or your clients) target audience, and can ultimately bring brand awareness and then revenue, that's where the true value lies. The cover of TIME is great, but if your target audience is young males ages 15-22, what was the real impact? As the media evolves online, so will our targeting and penetration of it.

    I wouldn't think of it as less opportunity for PR, I'd think of it as more. All it takes is a refocus as well as a repositioning of goals for clients and executives, etc. The old standards are dying, we need to create new ones!

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    Sorry to be all nitpicky, because I do agree with most of what you said here, but this:

    “I think it is reasonable to assume that with less space available, the value of what remains can only escalate.”

    Seems to be based on false logic. Yes, it is more difficult to get print coverage this days, but does that necessarily make it more valuable? Print outlets haven't just shrunk in number, they've shrunk in readership. So now we have flacks putting in WAY more time and energy for fewer eyeballs.

    So why would we want that?

  • http://twitter.com/DanielleCyr DanielleCyr

    I completely agree that we have more competition for less space and that readership declines are all too real. The challenge is that there is going to be a lag between the actual decline in readership occurring and clients realizing the diminished value of print placements. I think the perception of print placement value being high is going to last quite a while.

    It's an interesting predicament to say the least!

  • @jaykeith

    Good point, but I think that if Danielle is arguing that with major print publications, like the WSJ, NYT, TIME, etc. that there is less space but their readership (and the perception that they are the “ultimate pr hit”) is still high – the value of real estate in those publications for PR flacks has increased. I agree with that for the most part. It's harder to get into a high readership pub that's shrinking, and with clients still wanting those hits, it's becoming more competitive.

    But like I said, as more and more localized and specialized sections, blogs, and webpages pop up, the value of a “big time” PR hit will continue to decline. I think that it's no longer about eyeballs, it's about eyeballs that matter, buy, promote, review, and evangelize a brand. Are you going to get that in a high readership pub? As time goes on, probably not.

  • http://twitter.com/EvilPRGuy Michael Dolan

    I think the on the ground reality when you're a flack pitching for dollars is the shrinking budgets and staffs at print magazines have an upshot for PR people. There are fewer writers and editors, especially with all the staff cuts we've seen this year. These smaller staffs are expected in most cases to turn out the same amount of articles and copies. Since they have a heavier workload, they're more likely to be receptive to pitches because it saves them time, and lets them create copy in less time, because PR can provide some of that copy. I've noticed this happening frequently in the last 18 months.

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