Communicators will have to adjust strategy for mainstream media pay walls

This week, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch announced that the company will charge a fee for access to its newspapers' Web sites within the next year.

This week, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch announced that the company will charge a fee for access to its newspapers' Web sites within the next year. Among the titles under the News Corp. umbrella are The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, which already has a pay model in place for many of its stories.

Certainly, this is a move that many media companies have considered (The New York Times already tried and abandoned a pay model with Times Select) as falling ad revenues continue to do damage to their bottom lines. Equally certain, other media companies will impose their own pay models if News Corp. is successful.

Heretofore, PR pros focused on digital outreach have sought out specific blogs and Web sites because they effectively reach niche audiences. However, traditional outlets, with their ability to reach large audiences, particularly online, have been the target for mass consumers, a way to build awareness and buzz among many. Top-tier publications were golden because of their reach as well as their reputation.

With this development, even mainstream news sites will reach a niche audience of self-selecting readers. Where audiences now freely roam from one news site to another, they will now only be reading the outlets they're willing to pay for. PR agencies and clients will also have to assign new metrics to account for, not the size of the audience, but the quality and focus of it.

For a little extra boost, media relations pros may even strive to have their clients mentioned in the lead paragraphs of a story, which will likely appear as a teaser for those who are stopped at the gate and haven't paid for full access.

In recent years, media relations pros have struggled to keep track of which reporter is working where, which outlet still exists, and which blog has become an influencer. If mainstream media becomes a little less mainstream, those niche target considerations will come into play there as well.

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