Reach your audience in today’s digital world

December 1, 2010

USA Today’s Interactives Director, Joshua Hatch, presented a professional development set at the 2010 International Conference in Washington, D.C. called “Save the PR Industry: Support Traditional Media” with Sharon Geltner, president of Froogle PR and Bill McCloskey, national director of the Society of Professional Journalism. Tactics caught up with Hatch after the workshop to discuss how digital developments are enhancing traditional media.

How can we best engage today’s on-the-go consumer?
The best way to reach people is to go where they are — to make journalism and news and information available everywhere. It used to be that it was common for people to have set times where they consumed the news. Breakfast with the morning paper, after dinner watching the evening news. That’s no longer the case. People are consuming news and information all the time. It may be on the TV at the doctor’s office, or the radio in the car, or a text message from a friend or Twitter. So it’s important to use all the distribution channels available to get your news and information out there.

How has the rise of mobile and digital changed storytelling?
Mobile and digital are related but also separate. There are two keys to what’s happening with mobile. One is the fact that news and information is now available all the time — maybe while you’re waiting to get coffee and you have 5, 10, 15 minutes and you’re consuming something on your mobile device.  There’s a time component to it.

To me, the more important part of mobile is the spatial component because now you have a device that can match up your location with the news and information of that area. If you look, for example, at here in the D.C. area, I’m going to get different news stories in Arlington, Va. than I am on Capitol Hill. So, it’s personalized and it’s about where I am.

Another thing that digital allows you to do is match up a media type with the best way of telling a story. Some stories are best told through words. Some stories are best told through video or audio or photography or data. What digital allows you to do is find the right medium for the message you are trying to deliver.

What are the challenges of smaller news holes and unfiltered public access — with 24/7 news and with a real-time news cycle?
Some media outlets have smaller news holes — newspapers may be smaller, there may be less time on TV — but the overall news hole is much bigger because you have unlimited space online. In terms of 24/7, constant news information creation and delivery, it’s a further exacerbation of the things we’ve seen on cable news [networks], which are 24/7 —maybe at a slower pace, although still quite rapid. Misinformation can propagate much more quickly.  That’s a challenge.

People need to be more responsible and follow the classic rules of verification, which is a fundamental of journalism. I don’t think there is a mechanism for enforcing that or a way of policing that. Culturally, we need to do a better job of media literacy — of teaching people how to ask critical questions, how to evaluate news and information [and] not simply to just believe what you’re told, but to critically analyze it for yourself.  That’s a cultural shift that we need to make.

With the increasing number of citizen journalists, will everything become more niche specific and will news become even more hyper-local?
We are seeing a transition away from a lot of general interest publications or news organizations, and [toward] more niche news outlets.  There have been studies that show people are exposed to more content than they would have been before.

It seems kind of counterintuitive, but what happens is that we all have networks of friends, associates, colleagues — some of whom we agree with and some of whom we disagree with — but we find their insights and perspectives valuable. So that opens a door to more content as they point things out.
I’m not suggesting that everybody is suddenly going to become a renaissance man and know everything about everything, but the opportunities are going to increase because you are going to [be] exposed to more outlets.

So, yes, you’re going to see more niche, more narrow news organizations that are deeper — that’s probably a good thing — and fewer broad general interest organizations.

You’re going to have the opportunity to survey a broad landscape of them. Ultimately, that provide an opportunity for better informed, better engaged citizenry.

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


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