Thursday, December 18, 2008

local is the new news

Trends in the news industry--and its audiences--are converging to refocus on local news and issues. And while it's long been held that "all politics is local," competition in the news business has been all about the national hook, lead or trend. Not so much, anymore. The reasons vary from economic woes such as decreasing advertising support to a better-honed sense of what the audiences want, and those driving the trend come from a variety of sectors. Here are just a few harbingers of the shift in news focus, and how they might change your media relations efforts:
  • The demise of Washington news bureaus: You read about this trend here in 2007, and the bad economy has made a bureau in the nation's capital more of a luxury than every before. Today's New York Times reports on the scarcity of the Washington bureau, and notes what will change: "As bureaus shrink, they cut back on in-depth and investigative projects and from having reporters assigned to cover specific federal agencies." What that means for communicators: Fewer reasons to come to Washington for nationwide announcements...a bigger watchdog role for specialty and trade press and for nonprofits when it comes to uncovering issues related to federal agencies...more reason to pitch Associated Press and other wires covering Washington on issues related to your location.
  • Support for online "community news" sites: The Knight Foundation just announced support for four such sites in Chicago, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Saint Louis, and San Diego, sites that were the focus of recent New York Times coverage. What that means for communicators: You may want to consider credentialling such sites as you would bloggers and traditional media, and reaching out to them with your local leads--keeping in mind their specialized beats and the fact that many are not staffed at mainstream media levels.
  • Local media are going mobile--and multimedia: You read here recently about the local reporters whose newspapers have them out pounding the pavement--this time, with Blackberry and audio and video recording equipment. And with national coverage of local issues diminishing, expect more pressure on local news outlets. That may be one reason why Burrelle's/Luce is offering a free whitepaper on targeting local media when you sign up for its web 2.0 updates. What that means for communicators: Make sure your releases and other announcements stress place names and local connections whenever possible--and if you're announcing news nationally that has local ties, include a geographic index with the news materials to guide local reporters to their targets.
Need an audit of how your organization can shift to reflect this trend, a plan for moving forward or targeted media training? Contact us at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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