MEDIA ROUNDUP: Strong local media calls Philly home

Philadelphia is by no means in New York's shadow when it comes to its local media. Ample opportunity for coverage exists in everything from TV to print to radio.

Philadelphia is by no means in New York's shadow when it comes to its local media. Ample opportunity for coverage exists in everything from TV to print to radio.

While it occasionally seems like the forgotten city of the East Coast power corridor, Philadelphia is actually the fourth-largest media market in the US, boasting not only three daily newspapers, but also vibrant local television and radio news programming. "We have a lot of local and regional stories to sell, and we have plenty of places to pitch them," notes Lisa Simon, president of the Simon Public Relations Group. "So we never feel like we're in the shadow of New York." "Philadelphia very much has its own feel," adds Peter Van Allen, who covers the area's media and marketing for the Philadelphia Business Journal. "It's not as polished as Washington or as rich or cool as New York." Catering to different audiences The City of Brotherly Love also lacks some of the bitter journalistic rivalries of New York. Not only are the city's two major papers, the Inquirer and the Daily News both owned by Knight Ridder, but both also target completely different audiences. "There is some competition for coverage on some stories, but not with others," notes Liz Spikol, managing editor of the free alternative Philadelphia Weekly. "The Daily News has the Inquirer beat on sports, and the Inquirer probably has the Daily News beat on more substantive stories." The Inquirer remains the prestige outlet in town, though some privately note that it's no longer considered a destination paper for ambitious journalists, but rather a stepping stone to jobs in New York, LA, or Washington. While most cities can no longer support even two dailies, Philadelphia last year became one of the few three-newspaper cities in America with Metro, a free daily aimed at the city's mass-transit riders. The Inquirer initially filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop Metro, but its arrival seems to have had little impact on the circulation of either of the established outlets. "The Inquirer has actually shown a slight increase in circulation," says Van Allen. "The conventional wisdom was that it would eat into the Daily News' circulation, and I don't know if that's proved true." Jay Devine, partner with Devine & Powers Communications, says of Metro, "They basically created a new niche of people who didn't buy newspapers before. It's a good way to find that audience who are transit riders and traditionally weren't ever reachable." The only caveat, Devine adds, is that Metro gets most of its content from wire services, leaving little opportunity for pitches from local PR pros. But the real growth in Philadelphia media seems to be occurring in TV. Not only have several of the local TV affiliates expanded their evening news broadcasts to two-and-a-half hours, but cable giant Comcast's all-news network, CN8, has aggressively expanded from a local to a regional focus amid speculation that it aims to compete nationally with CNN and Fox News Network. Devine says Philadelphia TV news producers deserve credit for their willingness to profile local companies. "On a comparative basis, they seem to be more open and slightly easier to pitch than the print reporters," he says. Karen Cutler, partner and SVP with Cherry Hill, NJ-based agency Star/Rosen Public Relations, also praises Philadelphia's radio news outlets, especially WKYW, which dominates the local Arbitron ratings with a nearly two-to-one edge over its nearest competitor. "It's all local, has a lot of its own reporters and is really well respected," she says. Weak market for magazines The one area where the Philadelphia media market may be lacking is in magazines, where the monthly lifestyle outlet, Philadelphia, tends to dominate. "Philadelphia is the big magazine, and it's still strong," says Van Allen. "There is always somebody who's trying to start a magazine to compete, and inevitably [Philadelphia] puts it out of business." Philadelphia magazine does have a young editor, Larry Platt, and is consciously trying to get edgier, but it remains known as the establishment periodical for the city. "It's the glossy for our market, but it's a tough publication to crack," says Cutler. "They have a lot of people pitching them and it's a lot of retail, health care, entertainment, and fashion. It isn't business-focused at all." ----- Pitching... in Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia's hidden media strength is in local radio and TV news, so get clients trained for live interviews and start making the rounds.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer's business page is improving, but the hole for local news remains small. Look to be creative and get local clients into the metro section as well.
  • Comcast's CN8 all-news cable TV network has long-term national ambitions, so develop relationships with its producers now and work toward greater exposure for your clients in the future.

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