MEDIA ROUNDUP: Broadband internet coverage grows

As more consumers use high-speed broadband internet connections on their home computers, the ways the technology is covered are continuing to evolve. In a case of better late than never, broadband is finally beginning to fulfill its promise of revolutionizing the internet for the average American. A recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Foundation found that not only are 55% of internet users now using high-speed broadband connections in their homes, but they're willing to pay $10 to $30 more per month for the fast, always-on connection. "It indicates that we're really a lot closer to the tipping point where you can really show what you can do with a broadband connection," says Bobby Amirshahi, director of media relations for Cox Communications.

As more consumers use high-speed broadband internet connections on their home computers, the ways the technology is covered are continuing to evolve. In a case of better late than never, broadband is finally beginning to fulfill its promise of revolutionizing the internet for the average American. A recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Foundation found that not only are 55% of internet users now using high-speed broadband connections in their homes, but they're willing to pay $10 to $30 more per month for the fast, always-on connection. "It indicates that we're really a lot closer to the tipping point where you can really show what you can do with a broadband connection," says Bobby Amirshahi, director of media relations for Cox Communications.

Ironically, many of the technology reporters and tech-centric publications that initially hyped the broadband phenomenon are no longer around to herald its triumph. "You didn't see the demise that you saw with the new economy publications, but you do see fewer print and online communications trades, as well as an erosion in outlets in the electronics space," says Donna Colletti, director of worldwide broadband communications for Texas Instruments. "So they're still around, but it's a much smaller group." More informed reporters In many ways, the business story surrounding broadband hasn't changed that much in the past five years, with a lot of coverage still devoted to the battle for subscribers between DSL and cable. "Because of the conflict there and the great revenue growth opportunities, that's still a great story for some of the business writers," says Amirshahi. Amirshahi adds that what has changed is that most business reporters now have a much firmer grasp of what broadband is and what it can do. "Even three years ago, there were still a lot of common misunderstandings, and reporters often mixed up cable modems and DSL," he says. "Today, there's a lot more understanding that there are two good technologies out there." Actually there are three, as Judy Blake, director of media relations for Hughes Network Systems and its Direcway high-speed satellite service, points out. "Our task is to get satellite mentioned with the other two technologies," she says. "In the satellite trades, it's not that difficult to get that coverage, but it's still a challenge in the general business press." The real change in broadband coverage is occurring on the consumer side, where the focus is now firmly centered on the applications that a high-speed connection can enable, such as voice- over IP and video on demand. "You've still got your usual suspects who do a great job of covering technology in the general media," explains Bobbi Henson, media relations director for Verizon Communications. "The challenge as broadband goes out to the masses is how do you crack into the lifestyle media and get outlets like Good Housekeeping and Rolling Stone to cover what you can do with broadband. You really have to show the utility of it." Gaining lifestyle coverage Robert Imig, VP with New York-based Nike Communications, which represents broadband phone company Vonage, stresses that the key to pitching broadband to lifestyle outlets is to position it as another must-have accessory alongside the latest trendy jacket or pair of shoes. "The tech reporter is not the person we're pitching at these lifestyle publications," he says. "A lot of those tech reporters are either gone or their job has evolved into overall lifestyle reporting." Amirshahi adds that with broadband continuing to evolve and grow, each new feature ends up providing an opportunity to not only drive brand awareness, but also to educate consumers. "It's not just telling people how to use all these new applications, like high-speed enabled chat," he says. "It's also explaining to them what their kids are doing with online chat and what they can do to safeguard their home from the bad things on the internet." But Henson says one thing broadband has going for it is the fact that journalists are among its biggest fans. "Reporters are the people who are using broadband, so they've experienced it, and they're very interested in new things, such as wireless broadband," she says. "So the media opportunities for broadband are only going to continue to expand." Pitching... broadband media
  • Much of the battle between cable, DSL, and, to a lesser extent, satellite is taking place market by market, so augment any national strategy with local outreach, as well
  • The media and most potential broadband customers now know what it is, so focus on features such as voiceover IP, video on demand, and high-speed chat rather than the technology itself
  • The more mainstream broadband gets, the less of a technology story it becomes, so tailor your pitch for lifestyle editors and a lifestyle audience

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