The Media

Even as the mediascape continues to undergo its long and sometimes painful digital transformation, media brands old and new continue to hold considerable sway, at both a national and local level. Influencing the media has always been a central tenet of the public relations industry, but the micro-targeting now possible with digital media requires a greater level of sophistication than the ‘spray and pray’ merchants of old.

Why mainstream media still matter.

For the longest time, newspapers and other mass media were the primary means of influencing opinions and behaviour. This was the mainstay of the public relations profession. But over the past 20 years, that landscape has changed dramatically. And it continues to evolve.

Print media, once the dominant source of news and information, has been in a long slow decline by almost every metric. Circulations of daily newspapers’ print editions are falling at a rate of around 10% a year; newsrooms have shed tens of thousands of journalism jobs; and the number of actual newspapers is in decline, too. Local news is the main victim of this, as running local newsrooms or employing local reporters becomes less economically viable. Attempts to make print millennial-friendly have fallen flat.

But while print may be dead (or at least dying), newspapers and magazines are brands. And strong brands are very hard to kill.

Media brands have, over many years and with varying degrees of success, been transitioning to a digital-first model. Major media brands like The New York Times and Financial Times continue to see quarter on quarter increases in digital paid subscriptions, which off-set the declines not just in print sales, but also in ad revenue. Deloitte estimates that while in 2012 the ad to subscription revenue ratio was 90:10, by 2020 it is more likely to be 50:50.

Today, it is online where the true influence of these media brands is really felt. Because of their sites’ high domain authority, their content appears prominently in most searches, increasing their reach exponentially. You may not buy a daily newspaper anymore, but thanks to search, the potential reach of media brands is greater than ever.

But what does all this mean for cities?

The key issue is one of relevance. News media have always been accused of having a metropolitan bias. This is probably true. Publishers have always had a relentless focus on understanding their audiences so that they can meet their needs, give the people what they want. The simple fact is that cities are where their audiences are, and where the economic and cultural influence resides. The growth in the number and size of cities, alongside the death of local news is only going to exacerbate this.

The simple fact is that ‘national’ media really speaks to people in cities.


Tech-enabled targeting

Social media platforms have led the way in geo-targeted advertising, that is, ads served up to people based on their location, as well as their personal preferences revealed through their search and other online behaviours. And as geo-targeting has become more sophisticated, and more accurate, Facebook and Google have swept up greater proportions of the available ad revenue – more than 60% in the US in 2017, according to eMarketer.

But other media are catching up, and experimenting with different forms of geo-targeting, such as customised push notifications, social media posts, and home pages.

‘Local’ is as important as it ever was, it just means something different now.

A new breed of media

Alongside the evolution and digital transformation of established media brands, we are witnessing the emergence of a new breed of digital-first media, aimed squarely at the particular interests and usage patterns of younger urbanites.

Platforms like BuzzFeed have evolved from publishers of quirky content to media giants in their own right, breaking hard news stories and disrupting the media landscape by delivering engaging content in a way that is geared towards the video-snacking habits of digital natives on the move.

And while the financial viability of the likes of BuzzFeed, Vox, Vice Media and Mashable has been called into question, as one after the other has missed its targets, their success with younger city dwellers is hard to argue with. This is due in part to the fact that unlike ‘The Gray Lady’, these media were founded in the digital age, and in the social media age. They recognised early on the habits of their target audience and the importance of social media. An estimated 80% of BuzzFeed’s reach exists beyond its website, on its apps, on social media platforms, messaging apps and video syndication partners. This gives them not just incredible reach, but also engagement – consumers of these media do not have to visit one site to access the content they want; that content is served up to them, on whatever channels they happen to prefer.

This model creates a tremendous potential for geo-targeting.


Tech-enabled targeting

Social media platforms have led the way in geo-targeted advertising, that is, ads served up to people based on their location, as well as their personal preferences revealed through their search and other online behaviours. And as geo-targeting has become more sophisticated, and more accurate, Facebook and Google have swept up greater proportions of the available ad revenue – more than 60% in the US in 2017, according to eMarketer.

But other media are catching up, and experimenting with different forms of geo-targeting, such as customised push notifications, social media posts, and home pages.

‘Local’ is as important as it ever was, it just means something different now.

New Nations and the Media: Key Take-Aways

Established media brands that have successfully made the transition to a digital-first model retain their focus on major cities, and the combination of reach and authority makes them more influential than ever

They, and the newer breed of media, recognise that reaching and engaging audiences does not necessarily require bringing people to your main site; social media and other platforms offer myriad engagement opportunities

The development of geo-targeting technologies provides opportunities for communicators and marketers to provide city dwellers with the kind of localised and customised content that is otherwise lacking, given the slow death of local news as we used to know it

For details of how to maximise your organisation’s influence through media engagement, contact Ben Petter

[email protected]