MEDIA ROUNDUP: Hard news mags search for trends

While boasting some of the healthiest circulations in the magazine world, Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report have managed to remain leaders in hard news, even as they've tweaked their formats and strategies to deliver more consumer-oriented coverage.

While boasting some of the healthiest circulations in the magazine world, Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report have managed to remain leaders in hard news, even as they've tweaked their formats and strategies to deliver more consumer-oriented coverage.

"They've been really good at changing with the times," notes Jennifer Baker, Golin/Harris International media relations VP. "They have lead times that aren't as immediate as daily papers, so they can go into a bit more depth. Their entertainment editors, for example, have access to the biggest stars in film, music, TV, and theater, so they get great stories." The magazines' ability to do trend and feature stories that capture the mood of the country as a whole sets them apart from other media outlets. From Eminem to Botox, a story in Time, Newsweek, or US News & World Report can often be the tipping point, signaling that a regional trend has gone national or a fringe movement has moved mainstream. "Our objective is to drive the nation's conversation," says Ken Weine, Newsweek's communications director. Getting coverage for their coverage One reason for the continued relevance of the newsweeklies is that the magazines have become very proactive in touting their own coverage. "We have a staff of publicists fully dedicated to promoting our reporters and editors on radio and TV across the country and the world," says Weine. "We come out Sunday morning, a slower time for print and broadcast, so we can often get coverage of what's in our latest issue." From a PR standpoint, that means a story in Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report can often trigger a flood of additional coverage. "The trend we increasingly see is media quoting other media...and so you can potentially influence well beyond the actual hit you're getting," says Michael Schiferl, SVP and director of the US media service practice at Edelman. "It can have that ripple effect where it rolls out across other media." The other major benefit newsweeklies have is that they've managed to maintain a reputation for credibility in an era of increasing skepticism about the media. An Edelman survey earlier this year found consumers ranked weekly news magazines second only to business magazines in terms of the credibility of their coverage, ahead of newspapers, TV, and radio news. With reputations for fair and credible coverage and circulations that include over 4 million for Time, 3.1 million for Newsweek, and 2 million for US News & World Report, you might think these outlets are ideal PR destinations. Yet PR pros say that in some ways the broad demographic appeal of these outlets can work against them. "When our clients tell us that they want visibility, I don't know if Time, Newsweek, and those types of publications are always on the top of their lists," says Sandra Sokoloff, SVP and head of the national media relations practice at Magnet Communications. As far as pitching Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report, Baker says the key is to really do your homework and develop relationships with the key beat writers, many of whom have a lot of flexibility in the kind of stories they choose to do. "We go to the exact section and beat reporter," says Baker, adding that while a story may not end up leading the tech page, for example, it could still make another section, such as Newsweek's Tip Sheet and Periscope or Time's Your Time and Notebook. Targeting specific topics Despite their reputation as short-lead breaking news outlets, these magazines do put out special regular issues that target particular topics, such as health, business, technology, families, and education. US News & World Report, for example, is clearly perceived as the leader in annual college-rankings coverage. While he questions whether the newsweeklies are as important as general news outlets as they once were, John McGauley, president of Keene, NH-based Gehrung Associates, says, "In the college-guide category they are very relevant." The magazines take these ranking stories very seriously, and some even claim to be impervious to PR pitches. But McGauley says, "They will respond to well-crafted trend ideas. If we can put four schools in the same trend, they're going to say that sounds pretty good, whereas the...story of one school doing one thing may not appeal to them." ----- Pitching...newsweeklies
  • Focus on the beat reporters rather than the editors Many newsweekly reporters have flexibility and can pursue stories that interest them.
  • Leverage coverage in these outlets to get other media coverage.
  • Make sure to stay in touch all year long, even when you are targeting special issues.
  • Pitch the trend, not the product. These outlets are sensitive to being seen as too commercial.

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