Houston media market maintains energy

Soaring energy prices may have triggered anguish in many parts of the country, but for Houston, high oil and natural gas prices are fueling a multi-year boom that is helping area residents and the local media.

Soaring energy prices may have triggered anguish in many parts of the country, but for Houston, high oil and natural gas prices are fueling a multi-year boom that is helping area residents and the local media.

"It's just a tremendous city right now," notes Holly Moore, editor-in-chief of the Houston-based lifestyle magazine PaperCity. "We have a vibrant performing arts and arts community here, and there's also a huge number of retail openings, which is great for local PR companies and us."

While media in other regions have struggled with declining ad rates and editorial layoffs, Phil Morabito, founder and CEO of Pierpont Communications, says Houston's press has actually been growing recently, especially in lifestyle and business coverage.

"This used to be a two-paper town, before the [Houston] Post folded in the early 1990s, but the Houston Chronicle does a good job and there are significant weeklies as well as local radio," he says. "There are also smaller suburban weeklies that command a lot of respect and compete for readers, so there are plenty of venues you can pitch these days."

While energy has played a role in Houston's recent growth, Morabito adds that because firms ranging from Waste Management to Halliburton to Continental Airlines are also headquartered in the city, there is much more interest in other businesses, such as technology and health.

All of these industries command coverage, but they've also fueled a surge in small and midsize businesses, many of whom are both actively looking for coverage and increasingly willing to advertise.

"It's the rising tide that is lifting all boats, so we've been experiencing a good year," says John Beddow, publisher of the Houston Business Journal.

Over the past seven years, all three of Houston's professional sports teams have opened new stadiums or arenas, and the city was host to several All-Star games and the 2004 Super Bowl.

Lindsey Brown, director of marketing for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, says that helped the local media.

"A lot of ad agencies and PR firms have begun coming here," she says, "because they're realizing Houston is a more valuable market than they may have thought."

Meridyth Garcia, PR manager for the local production company Theater Under the Stars, says what many Houston outlets are looking for are strong ties to the community. "We really try to emphasize the local ties, especially when we have local performers," she says.

Morabito also says that most local PR campaigns must factor in Houston's large Hispanic population, adding, "Most of our consumer clients are looking for bilingual strategies."

PITCHING... Houston

Houston is a booming, increasingly affluent city, which makes the local lifestyle media ideal for high-end luxury themed stories

Make sure any consumer campaign includes a Spanish-language component to reach the city's growing Hispanic population

Target Houston radio outlets, which have some of the strongest locally produced business coverage in the country

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