PR Watch - Here Comes Pageview Journalism

The Public Relations Society of America’s PRSAY blog, in a post by professor Ron Culp of DePaul University's graduate program in public relations, noted the coming dominance of pageview journalism in a world where traditional media continues its decline while citizen journalism steadily gains influence.

Tech writer Tom Foremski, who coined the term, believes pageview journalism will become the primary source of news information in the U.S., while blogger and online-generated news "will grow significantly in all parts of the globe.”

In support of this, Nielsen estimates that 180 million blogs exist globally, while blogger software service WordPress adds another 100,000 blogs daily. Meanwhile, in 2013, we can expect general media to continue to decline in readership as they attempt to compete with multiplying online sites that give people what they want when they want it.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half (46%) of the American public gets news online at least once weekly; a third (32%) daily seek news online. Moreover, the credibility of online information is rising, while confidence in traditional media has declined every year since 2000. Currently only 25 million (8% of Americans) watch major evening newscasts.



A changing media dynamic

How does this changing dynamic impact the practice of public relations?

First, it results in a reduced opportunity for media coverage. By 2010, newsrooms had 30 percent less staff than in 2000. As a result, company reporters -- already an endangered species -- find themselves being replaced by junior reporters who must cover one or more industries. Moreover, these younger, tech-savvy journalists have no longstanding relationships with PR sources.

However, since the ratio of public relations professionals to journalists stands at 4:1, PR’s influence will likely escalate at an ever-faster rate, presenting opportunities and challenges for the 66,000 practicing PR pros. With the inexorable shift to the Web, PR pros who are not willing or able to perfect their social media skills will face replacement by their eager younger sisters and brothers. The concept of "content people want to read" should be a key concern of PR practitioners.

In the age of journalism, when success was measured by subscriber counts and newsstand sales, readers might be as willing to read an obscure story as one that was of personal interest to them. But today, when every click counts, journalists face intense pressure to produce content that will generate clicks (and some are even paid by clicks/pageviews), which only increases the challenge of enticing a reporter to cover your story.

Being the first to report a story can result in hundreds of thousands of extra clicks, even for a paper that beats the competition by a few seconds. So even with the growth of online news channels (pick your favorite half-dozen), a story that doesn’t promise to deliver volumes of clicks won’t get the editor’s OK. Although some believe the practice is not sustainable, it continues to grow and to become more entrenched.

As a result, Foremsky writes, today’s journalism is “a bland me-too media landscape which publishes huge numbers of the same stories.”

Working in a pageview world

How must PR pros evolve their practice in a land of pageviews? Obviously, pitching strategies must evolve, but PR practitioners can also help to drive traffic to published stories -- with the thinking that if they can increase traffic, surely they will become the darling of those reporters.

Besides, who says the pitch should end with the story’s publication? Two components are key to the successful story pitch in the era of pageview journalism. First, as always, one must sell the editor on the inherent value of the story, which may require enhancing our storytelling skills beyond the level of the press release. Secondly, the PR outreach should include an outline of the steps we will take to drive traffic to the story after publication. Just what does this entail?

• Supply keywords the reporter can build into the article to drive traffic

• Reference the article on the client/agency corporate blog

• Have your client retweet the link

• Promote the link in communities with an interest in the subject

• Share the link in the agency's social media and internal channels.

• Buy keywords to lift the link above organic search

Doing the hard work of attracting visits to one’s story complicates the pitching process, but can yield dividends. Where we previously told clients their article was published, along with circulation figures and subscriber demographics, we could never with any certainty know how many people actually read the story. But by working with reporters to drive page views, PR can provide better metrics that correlate with more tangible outcomes. Perhaps then we can go to lunch.

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