Old media not dead yet…
With perpetual hype surrounding the proliferation of social media, traditional media often appears cast aside as the shunned stepchild in today’s fast evolving mobile, digital and virtual world of news consumption.
Yet despite a conspicuous shift in the media landscape caused by the 21st century Information Age, tens of millions of Americans still consume news that is originally reported and produced by traditional media — including state news and hyper-localized news in smaller media markets nationwide.
Thus while it remains important to focus on maximizing social media, today’s public relations (PR) pros and professional communicators should also not forget about traditional news media (also known as “legacy media” or “old media”). That’s because old media still plays a vital role in modern journalism.
In fact, traditional news outlets — including national newspapers, network/cable TV and radio news — continue to transition and transform by leveraging digital, mobile and social platforms. This is a must to remain relevant and compete with colossal social media mainstays like Facebook.
Interestingly, many leading traditional newspapers, such as The New York Times, now have higher digital readerships compared to old-school hard copy editions.
Readership & Revenue
While some traditional national newspapers remain alive and kicking (albeit mainly on digital platforms), many small to mid-sized print media have been forced to close shop. This downward trend is based on plummeting paid subscriptions and advertising revenue, with results in less readership.
Additionally, influential national weekly magazines with once large print circulations have likewise made the leap to digital only, including Time and Newsweek, among others. Moreover, the digital transformation is not just taking place within professional journalism but also on college campuses across the country. This trend is due to the ubiquitous digital presence of Millennials and their younger cohort, Generation Z.
My old college newspaper at the University of Maryland, for instance, is now all digital all the time. That’s compared to a longtime daily and weekly print version which had circulated for 100 years.
However, the Pew Research Center has also observed an upside for legacy media:
“News is a part of the explosion of social media and mobile devices, and in a way that could offer opportunity to reach more people with news than ever before.” — Pew Research Center
All of the above is driven by how Millennials and Gen Z consume news, with mobile being the medium of choice.
New & Old Media
As Pew points out, citizens are increasingly consuming traditional media via popular social, mobile and digital (non-traditional) platforms. But this is not a mutually exclusive phenomenon, especially for older generations.
For example, while I still receive a hard copy edition of The Washington Post delivered each morning — yes I’m a proud Gen Xer — I consume most of my news online by linking to legacy media outlets.
Moreover, leading social media platforms have leveraged traditional media to republish popular content. A good example of this was Facebook’s experiment with “Instant Articles” (remember that?), not to mention other social sites republishing everything from Business Insider to BuzzFeed.
Additionally, leading regional newspapers are also part of the digital transformation. One good example is the venerable New Orleans Times-Picayune, which has transitioned to an online presence while continuing to deliver the award-winning print edition. Thus, readers now have more options in how news is consumed at the national and regional levels.
The bottom line is this: Traditional news media is not dead yet and still plays an important role in the fluid Digital Age of journalism.
That’s because legacy media still accounts for a significant amount of news consumption by older Americans and global audiences. This is especially true in underdeveloped parts of the world which have failed to come full circle in embracing mobile and digital technology.
Therefore, with this big picture context in mind, it’s clear that traditional media still matters. Further, as most old media eventually die off, the influence of institutional news outlets appears to be increasing. To wit: The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times are gaining renewed stature by breaking major news online — while social media continues to play catch up and follow their lead.
Today’s PR pros and communications practitioners should be mindful of the interaction and intersection of new and old media. Millennials and Gen Z who work in virtual newsrooms are still relative newbies to the lure of legacy media. In fact, most young people remain obsessed by social media alone.
But regardless of one’s infatuation with social media, any effective modern communications strategy should strive to strike an appropriate balance between new and old media outlets to obtain the most widespread and favorable news coverage.
Again, this is not an either/or proposition. One type of news medium should not necessarily be discarded or discounted for the other.
In essence, it’s critically important for today’s new breed of professional communicators to remember that, despite the generational divide, traditional media is not dead yet.
Rather, leading legacy media are part and parcel of journalism’s ongoing digital transformation.
NOTE — You also might like the follow up: How to Tame Media Beast in Wild West News World (March 17, 2018)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David is a strategic communications consultant, freelance writer and former federal government spokesman based in the Washington, DC-area. His work experience includes the White House, Congress, OMB and EEOC. A native New Yorker, David was a journalist prior to his career of public service. You can also find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public sector employer, private sector employer, organization or political entity.