A decade in the sun – a reflection of 10 years in the media
It’s not often I write a self-indulgent blog post but it’s not often I celebrate ten years in the media; an industry that is insecure, uncertain and constantly evolving.
It was 2003 when I first stepped into a real newsroom. I was just 14 years old, still at school, still impressionable and even back then, still certain that a career in media was for me. Just a week working voluntarily at The Solihull News confirmed that this was definitely the right career to work in. The pleasure of meeting new people every day, the thrill of being on the end of the phone when someone rang with a breaking story and the excitement that is seeing your name in print for the first time were unforgettable – and this was only the Solihull News! Further voluntary work followed to build up vital experience, before freelance work and later, full time positions on regional newspapers throughout the Midlands, national business titles, a stint in video and online news, a radio flirtation and a leap onto the other side of the fence and the beginning of a career in public relations.
During that time I was made redundant twice, moved city once to find new media opportunities and rose through the ranks from a reporter to an Editor and later, a PR Campaign Manager. Throughout that time I worked in newspapers, magazines, online, video and broadcast. Newspapers were reinvigorated, business was won and new ways of publishing news stories were found.
Ten years ago, it was so much easier to work in the media. Today, regional titles like The Solihull News are under constant scrutiny. Budgets for regional newspapers are falling and many well-known community titles are falling with them. People are changing the way they consume news and today, the majority of news is broken on social media as it happens, rather than in next day’s newspaper or that afternoon’s television broadcast. Some titles have kept up, some national newspapers have gone behind pay walls to make some money out of online news, and some regional newspapers have cemented a strong reputation for delivering instant news across social media. Some publications have switched to online video to save on printing costs and some clever trade magazines have started to hide behind separation charges for editorial as advertising becomes sparse.
Life is harder for journalists but it’s getting even more difficult for those trying to get their attention – PRs! These days you really do need to think like a journalist to get success. Your story has to be ground breaking, it has to be topical, and it has to be bringing something new to a reader. Your media has to be more targeted and your media relations solid in order to get your stories told to the right people. Evaluation has also changed. No longer do PRs get excited about the prospect of a big spread in a printed newspaper or magazine. This is still an achievement but just as exciting is getting the top story in a digital e-newsletter, getting your story told on the front page of a website or even having your client tagged in a post on Twitter from someone with thousands of followers.
Not that journalists have it that much easier. They have had to shift their focus to other areas of expertise. These days anybody can do the job of a journalist by setting up and maintaining their own blog so journalists are pushed to find even more interesting stories. Forward features are alive and well and the topics covered by the media in such features are more in depth and interesting than ever before. Reporters are so busy planning these features and learning about social media and digital news that press releases are often being printed verbatim, much to the joy of the PRs that write them. In many ways PR companies are exorcising more control over the news than ever before but they are still unable to do this without the support of journalists and those that print the news- whatever the medium.
Advertising has also changed. While companies used to happily pay hundreds for a half page advert in a local newspaper or trade magazine they now want their money to go further. They want to know who is looking at their advert and they want to see results in the form of new customer at the end of the phone. Who knows who looks and takes notice of an advert in a newspaper or magazine? Nobody – it’s not measurable like an online advert is. Online advertising is fast becoming the norm and publishers are constantly looking for the next best way of offering this service. Everybody is hanging out together on social networking websites and these offer a huge audience for a very small fee – one which can also be budgeted and capped. Print advertising is still a desired service but one that now often comes with online accompaniments.
Anybody who started working on a local newspaper ten years ago and is still holding a similar job has done well. They can certainly count those ten years as an achievement but is it as big an achievement as learning new skills and adapting existing skills in order to stay in the media industry after printed newspapers have died out? Have they enough experience in social media, digital media, video and radio to turn their skills to any job? The media is constantly evolving and nobody can safely guess what’s next for news.
Ten years in the media is a huge achievement but not quite as special, interesting or challenging as the next ten years could be!
This blog post was written by John Edden, Campaign Manager of Bridge PR & Media Services Ltd. John joined Bridge in 2012 after gaining considerable experience working on multiple media platforms throughout the Midlands.