Monday, March 9, 2009

Survey Says Trades Take a Fall

Public relations professionals are challenged with information overload. To provide proper context and counsel, we must understand the macro trends shaping a myriad of industry segments, the strategies of market leaders and emerging vendors, and how our company fits into the mix.

The social media era has made the content tsunami worse. Personally, I’ve added a host of blogs, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn group discussions to the periodicals and journals I read on a weekly basis.

Yet, regardless of how many blogs I add to my Google Reader I still consider trade publications like Computerworld, InfoWorld, CIO, Network World and Informationweek a must read. Their writers know the markets they cover better than general business journalists, and they tend to provide reliable and well researched insight and analysis.

In fact, I have had editors at mainstream outlets like BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes ask me to send a client’s trade clips before they would seriously entertain developing a story about the company. You had to prove the client was the talk of its industry because the trade media typically sniffed out companies that lacked substance.

Based on a new survey I just reviewed, I may need to rethink my reading priorities. George Washington University professor Don Bates got together with Cision to query 12,000 reporters and editors about the outside sources they rely on for story ideas and research.

The results of the survey are comprehensive and cover a number of important topics. I’ll focus on the unexpected knocks on trade publications, which included:

--Blogs are used almost as often as trades as part of the reporting and editing process.

--For monitoring responses to stories, only Web sites and blogs are considered important. Conferences, trade journals, social networking sites and podcasts are lumped in the unimportant category.

Okay…what’s going on here? I know the trades have suffered due to a decrease in advertising and the lack of a viable Web business model. The resulting cut-backs have taken out many experienced writers who toiled for years to develop the expertise and contacts to effectively report on the most technical industries.

For the trade media to have fallen on par (and even lower) with the mass of peer review-less hacks who together comprise a significant portion of the blogosphere represents a shocking decline in their influence.

If journalists no longer turn to the trades for what is relevant in a specific market should I spend my time with them every week? And, of course, the bigger question is: Will the trades even be viable in the next 18 to 24 months?


Wonderwoman0126 said...

Interesting post, Marc. I used to do a ton of pitching to prestige and trade media and met the same cycle: media begets more media and so it goes in the news cycle of the day/week/month.

Interesting observations you make about today's media landscape. When you consider the "newshole" that print newspapers and trade media must start clean with and fill after every print/go-live deadline AND how much typical newshole is filled with PR (used to be at least 60 percent -- probably much more now), that number must now be even more staggering with dwindling staff resources/bandwidth.

My suspicion is that people today have more options for receiving their news and would rather get their news unfiltered, i.e. closer to the source and perhaps without the slant. Enter the blogosphere.

I don't know if the relatively negative perception of trades will reverse, but I suspect it may once more bloggers are revealed to be pundits pushing a certain agenda. Most do whether they admit it or not, or else they wouldn't be blogging. I think we have yet to see how this actually plays out and when, if at all.

Just my twisted two cents, FWIW.

Anonymous said...

In general, all print media will be gone in a matter of a couple of years. PR people and journalist MUST adapt to the realities of an online world.

Marc Hausman said...

@Wonderwoman0126 -- my compliments on an excellent comment.

I share your concerns about the credibility placed on blogs by journalists, analysts and (in general) Web users. Unliked traditional news media, the blogosphere lacks of a formal peer review process.

I subscribe to and enjoy reading a number of blogs, yet I always keep in mind that the writer has an agenda.

Baltimore Jeff said...

My knee-jerk reaction to the problem of mainstream business reporters putting less emphasis on the importance of trade pubs: Maybe the problem is instability at the mainstream publications? Could it be that cutbacks, layoffs, loss of newshole and time to do research (while blogs are growing) at the mainstream publications leave reporters struggling to learn new beats, balancing more responsibilities and sorting through more resources?