05 November 2007

PR pros seeking insights regarding journalists' use of online newsrooms, blogs, RSS and social media will be interested in a new study conducted by Bulldog Reporter and TEKgroup International, which indicates that journalists' usage of these technologies is more extensive than believed by PR professionals.


The findings, released last week at the PRSA International Conference, reveal that the greatest change in journalism practices due to new Internet technology is the ability to access corporate news and contact information online 24 hours a day. Nearly half of all journalists report visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once a week, while more than 85% visit at least once a month.

"This is a broader survey than TEKgroup's [annual] online newsroom survey, and there's [logically] a slight overlap, but very little," says TEKgroup director, marketing and sales. "For example, journalists frequently tell us they have a hard time locating media-contact listings on company websites, as we know from the newsroom surveys. Journalists these days even want cell phone numbers."

According to the findings, almost half of journalists generally believe PR people don't understand their media or the subjects they cover, bespeaking a greater need for media research before pitching or distributing press materials. Indeed, 45% of journalists generally believe that PR professionals are not sufficiently familiar with their media outlets, and 48.8% generally believe that PR pros do not "understand the subjects I cover."

Given these complaints, it is small wonder that 48.8% of journalist respondents generally agree that phone calls from PR professionals waste their time. Nor is it surprising that some 38.9% of journalists report general or strong agreement with the statement that "I cannot easily find information I need on corporate websites."

Journalists also report a significant usage of blogs, social media and RSS feeds to stay on top of the news. While almost a third of journalists have not yet turned to blogs as a resource, more than a quarter report regularly reading five or more blogs to keep up with the subject matter they cover. Nearly 70% say they follow at least one blog regularly. Nearly 16% of journalists report that they receive five or more RSS feeds of news services, blogs, podcasts or videocasts every week, and about 37% receive at least one regular RSS feed.

"Blogs may or may not be great targets for your PR outreach, but they are particularly important for monitoring [purposes]—hearing what others are saying about your company," adds Woodall. "Thanks to technology, PR people finally have these great tools at their disposal. Some reporters on certain beats may read more blogs or use more video than others, but more creativity and out-of-the-box thinking is likely to pay off. PR can help journalists out in so many more ways now."

The survey also found that the single greatest impact the Internet has had on how journalists practice their craft is the ability to research news online 24/7, with nearly 79% indicating this change. Nearly 68% of journalists indicated that the ability to access media contact phone numbers and email addresses online was significant, despite the fact that this information was also deemed difficult to find on many corporate websites. Other advantages brought about by the Internet also pertained to corporate information, such as the ability to search corporate news archives, receive corporate news alerts targeted to their beats, and access electronic press kits online. Again, it would appear that the usability of institutional websites lags behind journalist demand for information about organizations.

More key findings:

1. Respondents reported that the single greatest change in journalism practices due to new Internet technology is that they can now research corporate and other news online 24 hours a day as well as access media contact phone numbers and email addresses.

2. Nearly half of all journalists report visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once a week, and more than 85% report visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once a month. Ironically, despite this new capability, a majority of journalists complain that when they visit organizations' websites, it's often difficult to find the organizations' media representatives and contact information.

3. Journalists disagreed strongly with the notion that PR professionals "do not respond quickly enough when I call them," with 54.4% indicating general disagreement and only 5.3% agreeing wholeheartedly. Another relative positive was the fact that journalists generally disagree that PR professionals often do not tell the truth, with 52.6% generally or strongly disagreeing with that statement.

4. While more than half (51.5%) of journalists report that they never seek audio or video material from corporate websites, nearly 20% say they seek such material at least once a month. Among journalists working in national television, that number jumps to 25% (with fully two-thirds seeking such material at least once every three months), and among journalists working in national radio some 30% seek audio or video from corporate websites at least once a month.

"The survey's message is not to jump on the bandwagon just because others are—it may not be right for you. It all comes done to the basic question of what is your objective?" says Woodall. Proper targeting and relevancy are as much as assumed these days. "Online newsrooms can help keep your outreach relevant and properly categorized, for example, and keeping the 24/7 news cycle in mind is key. Consider the value of reporters' time just as you'd want others to respect your own. Help reporters get in and get out with what they need."

The results of the survey, conducted October 4-10, reflect practices of consists of 2,046 respondents, of which approximately 47% were editors or editorial staff and 35% were reporters or writers. The survey's objective was to establish benchmarks for how journalists use the Internet to conduct research. The full study can be found at https://www.tekgroup.com/marketing/mediarelationspractices_bulldog/.

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