April 26, 2018Published by: Robert Haslam

Global State of the Media Report 2018: algorithms, fake news, press releases

Cision, the company behind PR Newswire, Gorkana and other media tools, has unveiled its 2018 State of the Media Report. It’s a major survey, polling 1,355 journalists from six countries to take the pulse of the industry as it continues to battle against misinformation and fake news.

The key takeaways? Perhaps unsurprisingly, journalists in 2018 believe that accuracy is the most important value for their media outlet, with 81.4% of British journalists placing it top. But the good news for companies and PR experts is that accuracy now comes above the need for journalists to get exclusives or break a story first.

The push for accuracy is likely a by-product of the reaction to fake news. Journalists are well aware that their word and reputation is what matters most. A large part of the issue around fake news, as the recent Facebook investigation has found, is not news on established sites. Instead, it is the rise of campaigns that are orchestrated to spread fake stories on social channels from sites that have been set up with the mission of disseminating lies.

Where traditional news media has been caught out is that some of these stories sometimes get picked up and reported as fact. This may help to explain why accuracy has taken precedence over trying to be first with a story. Journalists now know that they need to spend a bit more time to verify stories, with 21% saying that increasing journalistic standards is important.
The push for accuracy may be working. Last year, journalists said that 91% of the public had lost trust in journalism. Yet in 2018, that has fallen to 71%. It’s still a shockingly high figure, but it’s a move in the right direction.

However, when asked about the biggest challenge journalists face, fake news doesn't even make the top two. Instead, it’s the impact of staffing and resources at number one, and in second place, social networks and search engines bypassing traditional media.

In many ways, these two challenges are inextricably linked. It’s social media and search engines that have diverted much of the ad revenue from news media and publishing. Many people also spend more time looking at social networks than they do reading news sites; many also search for specific topics, rather than sitting down to read a paper and getting a broader view of events.

Where journalists want news from
In recent years, there have been many cries that PR as we know it is dead and that the press release deserves to be consigned to the bin. Those who call for press releases to cease cite the rise of blogs and other mediums as a way to disseminate news.

Cision’s report, however, proves that the press release is far from dead. In fact, the report found that releases and news announcements were the most valuable content source, with 63% saying it was the information that journalists most want from their PR contacts. While some may argue that it doesn’t matter whether this is a blog or a tweet, 44% of journalists in the survey said that a press release is the most trusted brand source.

The role PR people play
The rules of how to be effective in pitching news and building better relationships haven’t changed. If anything, they help to demonstrate why PR takes time to build up effectively.

When asked about how to build better relationships, journalists said they want the following:

  1. Research/understand my media outlet
  2. Provide me with data and expert sources when I need them
  3. Tailor the pitch to suit my beat/coverage
  4. Stop spamming me
  5. Include multimedia assets with your pitch

Journalists and the media are continually having to overcome obstacles to their reputation and business model, and it’s important to remember they want to be treated with respect. It’s easy to send out a press release to 200 people in the hope that a couple of people cover it, but that’s not the approach we take or believe in at Battenhall.

Getting the right story placed at the right time takes time and an understanding of the landscape. The good news is that journalists are striving ever more for accuracy, so it’s important that stories are backed up with data and insight that can be validated. A press release is still as important as it’s ever been, but it must be backed up with multimedia content and tailored for individual journalists and specific publications.

Get the full report from Cision here.

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