Over the past decade or so, the media industry has developed dramatically. Firstly, the advancement of technology has meant that it has become far easier for people to get online and consume information, than ever before. According to recent research by the United Nations agency that oversees international communications, the number of Internet users has increased from 738 million in 2000 to 3.2 billion in 2015. This has meant that journalists are now having to provide a continuous flow of new information to inform its readers across the globe. This in some cases resulted in churnalism, the word given to journalistic content that only contains press releases or wire stories.
Secondly, the industry is now said to be, for the first time home to more PRs than journalists. This growth, however, is often blamed by critics, as opposed to celebrated, for the decline in old school journalism, as journalists rely more so on PR-generated content.
A couple of years ago, Chris Atkins, a journalist who wanted to demonstrate how often this was happening flooded the market with several hoax press releases, with the majority of these releases becoming the newspapers most read story.
Certainly PR plays a big role in servicing this need for a constant flow of news, however to say it simply supports churnalism is missing the point, as there are number of different ways PRs can help journalists. Take issue responses, for example, a key tool in any successful PR campaign. PRs provide journalists with expert comment and analysis to back up their story and give their readers insight and different lines of thought to consider. The material we provide can also act as a lead generator – alerting the journalist or the publication to a story that they may have not already been aware of. By-lined articles are another aspect of PR that offers a publication’s audience relevant and entertaining insight. Years ago, PRs could release a detailed product release on upgrade 2.2.4 and expect some great pieces of coverage. This is no longer the case. In the incredibly competitive world of journalism, publications are competing to be and provide the best for their readers and are after far more than a new product description. Journalists require good analysis and opinion, which is where our client step in.
From my personal experience, journalists are not often an easy crowd to please and are incredibly selective as to what they publish. As a result, PR content that they use always needs to be of particular interest to its readers and in line with the publication’s messaging. Due to the fast moving nature of online media and the battle for click-throughs, churnalism is a product of the age we live in, but good quality stories from trusted sources still hold the best PR value.