Transition, not survival, is the headline of today's media story

Since PRWeek began its annual Media Survey in 2008, the story has been about survival.

Since PRWeek began its annual Media Survey in 2008, the story has been about survival. Squeezed margins, tightened budgets, reduced print schedules, staff cuts - not to mention a Recession (yes, capital R). But I'd argue it's even more so about transition. We're living in a very exciting - and yes, sometimes painful - transitionary period in how we consume news, information, and entertainment.

My own home, and probably yours, is a testament to this ongoing change, from the Apple TV that streams movies and out-of-market ballgames to the all-digital access pass to The New York Times shared among laptops, smartphones, and tablets that litter our coffee table.

It is a scary transition for staffers at local papers and radio stations across the US. As one longtime newspaperman explained to me for the 2011 PRWeek/Porter Novelli Media Content Survey: "I have the same worries about the longevity of my job that probably everyone does." Indeed, many also worry that local news will slip from the hands of local papers to local Patch sites. Journalists find themselves overwhelmed by added responsibilities in the digital age combined with a painful shrinkage of desks in the newsroom. If you work in the fast and furious world of online media, you might see the future more brightly as you tally Web traffic and retweets.

But those who work in the legacy media are learning to adapt, too, in part by expanding blogging efforts and publishing content via social media networks to match consumers' changing preferences.

In the year since our last Media Survey, paywalls and iPad apps went mainstream. Kindle Singles have been hailed as a possible savior for long-form journalism in an age of rampant ADD, and just weeks ago Apple unveiled its Newsstand app as a way to organize newspaper and magazine subscriptions on mobile devices. Consolidation continued when Newsweek, a darling of the newsweekly era, and upstart The Daily Beast joined forces, and at AOL, which continued its expansion by swallowing up Huffington Post not long after its purchase of TechCrunch.

While this shift toward digital media has pushed some in traditional outlets out, it increased staff at online ventures, which have a whole set of different priorities. Those in online media place less emphasis on scoops, according to our survey. Additionally, those in new media are finding that if they lack the staff to be first on a story, they can offer value with opinion or punditry. As their numbers grow, a curious new blend of media ethos emerges, one PR pros must get used to, just as they did in the transition to a 24/7 news cycle years earlier. 

Rose Gordon is senior editor - special projects of PRWeek. She can be reached at rose.gordon@prweek.com.

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