Pic: fancycrave/Pixabay

You may have read recently about how Digital Acceleration – a major change in how newspaper brands owned by JPI Media will work – is being introduced in Scotland.

Why should you care and what will it mean for your business if you use PR as part of your marketing mix? In this article I aim to answer those questions.

The Changes:

Here’s what JPI Media said: “The Acceleration programme sees newsrooms primarily focus on increasing the amount of traffic to websites, growing the number of loyal users and pages they are viewing while maintaining print performance.

“A new all-Scotland structure will be created incorporating The Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News, Scotland on Sunday, Falkirk Herald, Fife Free Press and Southern Reporter into the Digital Acceleration model. All other weekly print titles will form part of the small titles unit that sits alongside the DA structure.”

What does that mean?

  • Digital first – titles will work to put content online first, rather than at the same time as or after print.
  • Changed role structures – instead of one editorial team producing print content with some of them putting it online, there will be three teams – live, specialist and print.
  • Analytics-led – instead of content priority decisions for print editions being taken primarily by senior editorial staff, what gets the best response online will be used in the print edition.
  • Audio content – many mainstream media organisations are already trying to jump onto the rapidly-moving podcast wagon. This will increase.
  • Paywalls – readers will increasingly be forced to pay for access to content. The Times, FT and The Economist proved this can work for quality content. Others will follow. How quickly and how much they can charge will depend on how valued and well-targeted to their audience their unique content is.
  • Non-‘DA’ titles – will stay as they are – mainly doing the print editions first while posting some stories later and some breaking news online as it happens.

Effects for the PR industry and its clients:

  • Digital coverage first – currently the first coverage checks for daily news are print and online simultaneously. In future it will be digital first and print later, depending on whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly.
  • Higher digital engagement – JPI Media says its Digital Acceleration trial at its North-East England titles resulted in page views up 20% and unique visitors up 17%. That means PR users should see higher reach for media relations overall…if paywalls don’t put significant numbers off.
  • Opportunity to get planned & unplanned stories out to the main audience quicker – lead times for getting something out quickly will shorten as digital journalists can get something online quicker than print ones.
  • Better-targeted stories will get more coverage – because analytics will be guiding story choice, if your story is well-targeted at an outlet’s audiences it will have a better chance of being used.
  • More engaging stories will do better – stories which resonate more with online audiences, regardless of what traditional news values and editors think of them, will flourish and get more coverage in print…as long as editors ‘walk the talk’ of being analytics-led for print story selection.
  • Print audiences will improve to some degree – at least slowing in decline, helping increase reach and engagement overall, because what they’re offered is what other people enjoyed most. The online audience will be the focus group for the print one. If their tastes are similar enough, it will work.
  • Audio opportunity – for which you will need to deliver the right audio content in the right quality – a role for professional PRs, especially ex-broadcasters (hint hint!)
  • Less need for high-resolution photos if you’re not bothered about getting print coverage, for which hi-res photos are necessary for decent reproduction. The need for the quality of the content – composition, lighting etc – will remain unchanged, so using a good PR photographer will still be worthwhile.
  • Video will become more important – web and social audiences love video. Ensuring you can offer video which tells the story and sends the right messages about your brand will become more important as news migrates to being mainly online.
  • Paywalls may mean smaller audiences for stories, but they will be better targeted and more engaged, hopefully leading to better outcomes
  • No guarantee of print coverage…but there never was and it has a smaller and older readership anyway – it depends who you’re trying to reach. In my last story for Angus 3D only 14% of its potential reach was via print. If that audience matters to you, there are plenty of other quality print channels to reach print-favouring audiences which will be around for some time yet. No new medium has ever entirely replaced an older one – why we still have radio and cinema in the digital age.
  • This is a growing trend – others have gone before already (The Independent and other titles have dropped print altogether – the next stage of the migration of media brands to mainly online) and other media groups will doubtless follow as the economics of print publication become ever less sustainable. So this isn’t limited to JPI Media. It’s an irresistible force which can’t be ignored.

Things which won’t change:

  • Getting the pitch right – the importance of pitching the right story in the right words with the right supporting rich media (video, pictures, audio) to the right media to reach the right audiences will only increase.
    Ongoing research by Cision continues to show that the biggest thing journalists are looking for (and mistake being made by bad PRs and business owners) is relevance to their audience.
    Doing your own PR based on a workshop you attended with little knowledge of the titles you’re pitching to and who their audiences are will increasingly reap less results.
  • Embargoes, deadlines, media releases etc – these will still have their place in professional communications management.
  • The value of using a professional PR – it won’t surprise you to hear me say the knowledge of media outlet audiences and slots, contacts, relationships and technical knowledge will remain very good reasons to use an experienced PR professional.

Need help getting your messages across in this changing environment? Get in touch!