Mainstream Media Still Matters

It’s easy to jump on the “mainstream media is dead” bandwagon. Journalists are jumping ship, outlets are fragmenting and readership is, in many cases, down. What’s more, it’s what a lot of the “cool kids” are saying so it must be right… right?

But here’s the thing – your local newspaper still probably has higher readership than your corporate blog… and as for tier one outlets, well, you’re probably not even close to their audience size.

Their audience is still bigger than yours

Mitch Joel recently wrote about the conundrum facing newspapers – more and more people say they will go elsewhere if their favourite news site suddenly introduced fees. Beneath the surface though, there’s a useful point for PR folks. As Todd Defren wrote in a separate post yesterday, “Though the news media still struggles to figure out how to make $$$ from journalism, the audience is present and accounted for.”

You catch that? The audience is present. It’s not as targeted as niche communities, but the reach is there (the reach/niche debate is one for another day).

Long term/short term

Social media is at its best long-term. I believe that; you probably do too. Yes, you might get lucky and get immediate attention but let’s face it, that’s not so likely.

As Dave Jones noted on a recent Inside PR podcast, agencies are fond of telling companies not to worry about social media results now; that in a few years they will – without necessarily having any evidence to back that up. See how your CFO or client reacts when you tell him he needs to wait for a couple of years to see the result from the budget he carved out from other marketing programs to give you.

How will you reach people?

You may have the best social media program possible, but if that’s all you have, how will people find out about it? Devoid of an audience, you run the risk of standing alone in a forest and shouting at the trees.

Depending on your company, you may already have an established visitor base for your corporate website. If so, the weight is off slightly but you’re still not off the hook. Search engine optimization is obviously key, but vaulting up to page one of important search terms isn’t usually a short-term endeavour.

Where does that leave us? With the established audiences of mainstream media – whether you’re buying placement through ads or earning it through media relations.

The definition of mainstream media has broadened (we can now count sites like TechCrunch, Mashable, Daily Kos, HuffPo etc as mainstream) but the old channels still matter.

What do you think?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.