Declining Print Media: PR and the Digital Landscape

Over the past decade, the ‘Death of Print Media’ has been a commonly adapted headline, and now PR practitioners face increased pressure to savvy up on the digital media landscape and on how to continue operating their media relations in a changing environment.

Stack of newspapers, placed on a laptop

According to, from 2010 to 2015 newspaper readership has declined by 31% and magazine readership has also fallen by 23%, while internet media consumption is at an all-time high with a dramatic increase of 105%. However, these figures should not come as a surprise as it is estimated we now spend over 20 hours a week on average online (Ofcom). With the vast increase in digital media and time spent online, PR practices are evolving to facilitate a new era of consumer consumption trends. Yet, as well as having some negative impacts on the PR business, the move toward digital also opens many opportunities to build stronger relationships with key publics.

The forgotten audience

Even with the average adult spending 20 hours a week online, it should be noted that not all demographics are tech-savvy and source their news online. With a large audience still depending on newspapers, the access to certain audiences print media allows is incomparable.

Regional newspapers are still the go-to source for local organisations to gain media coverage. Quite commonly, the organisation’s PR team strike up mutually beneficial and long-lasting relationships with local journalists. With the decline in print media, a considerable chunk of an organisation’s local audience (who still depend on local print for their news source) will be missed if all publications go totally digital.

Trade publications are also extremely useful for gaining b-2-b or specialist coverage that reaches a very niche public. If the decline in readership of magazines continues, once again importance audiences will not have access to the organisation’s news if they are not tech-savvy.

Hearing it from the horse’s mouth

A great benefit of the advances in digital media and more notably social media is an organisation’s clear contact with their external public. Back before it was routine for organisations to have prominent social media profiles, journalists would have final say on whether a press release or news about an organisation would be published to their target audience. The news channelled through print media also reaches publics, with varying levels of opinion and ‘noise’ added to the original key message. With the growing digital landscape allowing for organisations of any size to develop brand newswires, online newsrooms and social platforms, information about their products/services or corporate social responsibility programmes can be directly shared with their key publics.

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Continuous access to key audiences

Following on from the growth in company-owned media outlets and corporate social media accounts, organisations now have 24/7 access to channels of communication with their target audiences. Social media allows for instant commenting and transparent responses available for all to see, which can lead to organisations being scrutinised on how and when they respond to customer messages. Social media has also allowed for stories or bad publicity to spread almost instantly, making a crisis harder to contain and increasing the expectations of an immediate response from the company’s social accounts.

The trend for company-created news platforms and a successful social media presence has meant the role of a PR practitioner now incorporates digital media into all communication strategies. The communication strategies themselves are also changing through digital platforms and are becoming increasing interlinked with boundaries blurred between what is a press officer, a crisis planner and an internal communications practitioner.

For information on how Red Tree Public Relations can help take your business online, please give us a call on 0115 925 5499.