Monday, January 24, 2022

TrendReport 2022: Business Edition

 For our 20th anniversary, we decided to issue 20 predictions this year. The first five are available here. The second set of five mostly dealt with trends based on the endemic or midterm elections

Here are our final set, which focuses on business issues, though some are the result of Covid:

  1. Business magazines will publish fewer print issues. This won’t get much coverage but PR and marketing functions need to be aware that there will be fewer print issues of major business magazines. Not long ago, new issues might hit before you had a chance to finish the previous issue. Now, there so much time between some issues, you might think your subscription expired to Forbes (used to publish 26 issues, now six), Fortune (24, now 14), Fast Company and Inc. (12, now six each) or Bloomberg Businessweek (50, now 45). Another example of shadow inflation is that the subscription to these and other publications used to include print and website access but now print subscriptions no longer provide online access. What this means: These business outlets are still important to an older demographic but their print editions are, because of their new publishing schedules, less timely.
  2. Companies need to evaluate their technology, including security, and real estate needs. For a brief moment, it looked like offices were reopening but omicron put those plans on hold. Even when offices reopen, many employees will work a few days in the office and few days from home. What this means: Companies need to evaluate their technology, including cloud and security, to enable hybrid workers to collaborate easily and effectively. So expect more apps to connect employees remotely, including apps that transcribe (not just record) virtual meetings and improve how we deliver presentations. Companies also need to reassess their office space requirements, and we expect them to scale back. We expect the media to pay attention to the impact on the real estate market and to look at the future of the office and how we work.
  3. HR will be seen as a competitive advantage. Being able to successfully manage remote teams, retain and recruit employees is more of a strategic priority than ever, especially given the Great Resignation. We expect the media to cover: fierce competition for talent that’s no longer limited by geography and will require better pay and benefits, including more flexibility for caregiving, mental health support; a positive culture (made more challenging to communicate remotely) more diversity and more corporate social responsibility programs; and less tolerance for toxic workplace conditions. This last point is especially important for front-line jobs – like flight attendants, restaurant workers, etc. – who dealt with rude and hostile costumers.  What this means: Employees are rethinking their careers and are searching for meaningful work, and companies will need to find ways to provide that. This is particularly important for small companies, including mom-and-pop retail and restaurants, who will find it harder to stay in business if they can’t find and keep employees.
  4. Future of money is increasingly cashless: More monetary transactions in 2022 will take place using apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle because they’re more convenient because you pay with your phone – even if, like with Venmo, it’s more expensive than cash. We don’t expect this to get a lot of media coverage because reporters are more likely covering other finance topics including crypto, blockchain, NFTs and FinTechs — even though we think most readers won’t fully understand blockchain and NFTs (us included). But we do expect the percentage of cashless transactions to significantly increase except for the elderly and the unbanked poor. What this means: The big problem with going even 90% cashless is if you lose your phone or if there’s a blackout since cashless doesn’t work without electricity. Tangentially connected to the future of money because it is an alternate, but increasingly frequent, way for companies to go public, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs), essentially shell companies, will get a lot of coverage, too, but much of it will be negative. 
  5. Streaming could mean the end of cable and movie theaters. In part due to the pandemic, streaming services have proliferated and millions more signed up. Pundits have been proclaiming the end of cable for a decade but it’s probably not a coincidence that cable use declined to 50% over the last year. We also think that steaming will further erode movie theaters’ business because with a few exceptions, staying home to watch a movie is easier and less expensive. What this means: We think the media will cover the streaming wars because there’s only so many services that consumers can subscribe to – but we remain confident that there won’t be any consolidation until 2023. We also expect the media to cover the health of movie theaters and other entertainment venues; that said, we think there’s an ongoing market for sports, live performances and that arenas and theaters will continue to attract audiences as long as the risks for going out into a crowd are minimized.
  6. Smart homes devices will finally be able to communicate with devices from other manufacturers. One of the challenges of IoT and smart homes is that Google, Apple and Amazon’s technologies don’t interoperate with each other. Meaning: if you have a lock that works only with an iPhone, new owners who have an Android may need to replace the lock with an Android-friendly app. What this means: Just as the media is interested in the future of work, they’ll be interested in the future of the home. We expect the media to look at Matter, an interoperable platform/standard to allow devices from different manufacturers to communicate together.
  7. Electric cars still have a way to go. Although President Biden’s goal is to have 50% of all cars sold by 2030 be electric, we’re going to need significant changes in eight short years. What that means: Many electric cars have a range of 300 miles but that won’t work for long road trips, and there aren’t even enough EV charging stations in most cities. It will also be a problem given the current shortage of automotive semiconductors because we will certainly need more of them.
  8. Getting around cities will be slower, more complicated. Meanwhile, some cities are getting overrun by scooters, e-bikes and Citi Bikes, which were intended to improve transportation solutions inside a city, as well as by more people using delivery services to get food, groceries and other supplies, clogging streets, bike lanes and sidewalks. And in some cities, Citi Bike racks take up space that used to be parking spots for cars, reducing that valuable space while cars must circle to find an open spot. What this means: This is another area where infrastructure investments will be important. As for too-many scooters, we expect cities to look at regulating the number of scooters while promoting scooters as a sustainable alternative to using cars or even public transportation.
  9. Space will seem a bit further in 2022. With the exception of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, most of the top billionaires went into space in 2021. We don’t think there will be additional U.S. billionaires starting their own space companies. We do expect more space exploration by private companies, however. What this means: Continued interest in the space economy that is just taking off.
  10. Automation and robots will be more visible. To adjust to fewer workers, more companies will look to automate processes, using artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. Expect more stores to offer self-checkout (if they didn’t before), which may include AI-enabled cashierless technology. What this means: Once jobs are automated, it’s hard to go back. That said, at each inflection point, some jobs disappear – like the people who used buggy whips and those who made buggy whips – but are replaced by other jobs.

As always, we will evaluate how we did later on in December though we may decide to issue a midterm report in July, too. 

In the meantime, let us know what think -- if you agree or disagree. Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Birnbach Communications Issues Additional Trends for 2022: Endemic Edition

We would love for the pandemic to be in the rearview mirror but it's not over by a long shot. We do expect greater uncertainty for the next year, and that the New Normal won't ever be quite the same as the Old Normal. Because it never is.

But that doesn't mean the New Normal won't be okay. As a society, we adjust, and we believe that's a positive perspective -- we will get through this. We develop a new routine way to live, work and play.

We already issued our main trends for 2022 so here are our Covid-and-Midterm Edition of trends: 

  1. Covid uncertainty amplifies credibility crisis. Months of evolving guidance has created distrust in the CDC, which it explains is the result of “fast-moving science.” Unfortunately, that distrust is exacerbating things at a time when distrust in American institutions is the highest its been since Watergate. What this means: This is a problem for marketers because the media is generally seen as less credible, across the spectrum, and marketers use media to communicate and engage with their audiences. Further, because the media world is increasingly polarized, companies may alienate customers based on whether or not they advertise or boycott certain media properties. Also, it is not easy to rebuild trust and credibility; it took the better part of a decade to recover from Watergate mistrust, and we didn’t have social media to contend with at that time.
  2. Consumer Price Index and inflation will get a lot of attention. The media will pay attention to the CPI and inflation – which are related but not the same measure. We also expect to hear the phrase “shadow inflation,” which refers to when companies hold prices but reduce the net weight of packaged food products or when travel and hospitality companies start charging for services they used to include in the purchase price. Gas prices will especially get coverage. What this means: As with supply chain, we expect inflation will improve later in the year but it will get coverage through October since this is likely to be a mid-term election year issue.
  3. Because it’s an election year, the media will pay attention to the two Americas separated racially, economically, politically and by access to opportunities and healthcare. Covid will continue to be the major story but because of the upcoming midterms, we think the media will try to report on the big gaps between the haves and the have-nots. What this means: We mention this not to open a political discussion but because there’s a limited “newshole,” and it’s important to know what reporters will be covering because it means less time or space for them to write about your company.
  4. Big Tech, particularly social media, will continue to relied upon and hated. There’s awareness that social media is causing societal problems and that Congress, which for years has held hearings to determine a solution, has not done anything more than grandstand rather than provide a solution. We expect ongoing media coverage of the problems across various platforms but we don’t expect Congress to provide a meaningful solution because too many in Congress think the answer is to break up some of these companies as if they were traditional monopolies or to replace Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which is designed to protect freedom of expression on the internet. What this means: Not much will change.
  5. Infrastructure and 5G will be important topics in 2022. Updating the country’s infrastructure is seen by some as a way to make the U.S. more competitive and also improve access to necessary services to the have-not Americans who, for example, lack access to high-speed internet. As 3G service is discontinued, it is necessary to help provide 5G access in parts of the country that lack high-speed access. What this means: reporters will be interested in experts who can discuss what needs to be done and how infrastructure investments can impact rural communities, the poor, etc.

Of these, we think the Covid uncertainty will have the longest-lasting impact although none of these is really a short-term trend. 

We have another 10 trends -- for a total of 20 to mark our 20th anniversary -- to roll out over the next few days. Let us know if you agree or disagree.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Birnbach Communications Issues Key Media, Business and Tech Predictions for 2022: Trends in supply chain, healthcare, infrastructure and cybersecurity will dominate media landscape

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we're issuing our 20th annual list of top media and marketing trends for 2022.

Here are four of the agency’s top predictions for 2022:

  1. Supply chain issues will be at the forefront of corporate communications. The state of the nation’s supply chain will continue to receive coverage, until it becomes more reliable – probably in 2023. Understocked shelves will remain an issue due to scarcity of truck drivers, raw materials and semiconductors, and due to pent-up demand. The implications: Companies that effectively address supply chain issues can gain competitive advantage. They need to regularly communicate with customers about when they expect supplies to get back to normal, otherwise, consumers may try a new brand and not look back.
  2. Infrastructure investments and smart cities will spur sustainable tech. Beyond much-needed investments in ailing bridges and roads, look for cities to improve their tech infrastructure as they develop plans to revitalize themselves. The implications: Cities will look more at smart and sustainable technologies, like more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, solutions to manage food and package deliveries, intelligent traffic light systems that can adjust to traffic conditions, devices improving energy efficiency, and systems to improve safety, as well as smart sensors to gather data about pollution and other environmental data.
  3. More data and bandwidth will help healthcare, but fitness trackers may not. In addition to the ongoing focus of healthcare reporters on COVID-19 this year, bioinformatics, which combines biology and computer science, will attract more media coverage. Powered by AI, bioinformatics is becoming more relevant because it collects and analyzes biological information, which will help transform the study and treatment of diseases and chronic conditions including neurological and psychiatric diseases. At the same time, expect that fitness trackers will get more scrutiny in terms of their accuracy, the data they capture (which may not be the data the user actually needs) and their inability to enable users to share the information with their healthcare providers. The implications: Bioinformatics companies will have more opportunities to inform the public about the timeliness and significance of their technology, while companies selling fitness trackers need to be prepared to address the issues that might arise about their offerings.
  4. Cybersecurity will continue to dominate the media as companies search for solutions. The increase in the number of hybrid employees opens new security risks, and companies will need to establish new solutions for users accessing their networks remotely. The implications: Ransomware and other cyber-disruptions won’t go away this year so expect ongoing media coverage in 2022, especially involving government agencies and big companies with access to lots of personal data.

For our 20th anniversary, we identified 20 trends. The complete list, including 16 additional predictions, will be rolled out on our blog, PRBackTalk.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Track Report 2021: Which trends we got right, which ones we didn't

Every year, we issue a set of trends and predictions for the upcoming year and -- unlike most prognosticators, we evaluate how we did at the end end of the year.

Which is now.

So here's a look at our top predictions for 2021:

  1. We will all become more aware of supply chains. We were right about this. Supply chains became a front-page story everywhere. Until 2020, supply chains were a trade story, a topic non-trade publications rarely touched but this year, The New York Times made supply chain a focus for economics reporter Peter S. Goodman. Supply chain issues will continue into 2022, especially if Omicrom or subsequent variants continue, which seems likely. Grade: A.  
  2. The workplace of the future will be your home. We said that "a significant percentage of employees will choose to continue to work from home – which has propelled some to move to cheaper, less dense neighborhoods. Companies will have to rethink HR, recruiting and team building as well as reconfigure workflow, collaboration, and customer support to address the realities of the new workplace." So far, as many companies are halting return to the office initiatives, our prediction that work from home would continue into 2022 seems correct. We did not predict the Great Resignation, in which people resigned to pursue something else but we believe we were right that companies need to rethink, still, workflow, collaboration, teams (actual teams, not Microsoft's Team software).  Grade: A.
  3. Cities will need to reimagine downtown business districts. We continue to see underoccupied buildings and empty storefronts. We continue to think that "local hospitality businesses and retailers need to focus on delivering customer experience, not just commodity service" and that "to overcome stories about closures and stagnation, stimulate the local economy and give people a reason to visit, cities will need to revitalize downtown areas by expanding cultural activities." The problem is: we're not seeing much movement or coverage about rethinking downtowns. We think this is a critical issue that should get more attention. We hope this gets more attention in 2022. From a media coverage, however, this did not generate the proverbial ink we think this topic deserves. Grade: B.  
  4. Telepresence, industrial robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) will get more attention. Companies did experiment with video conferencing solutions like Zoom and Microsoft Teams and others but we did not see as much about telepresence as we thought. Same with industrial robotics. That doesn't mean that telepresence and industrial robotics did not gain strength in 2021 but we didn't see much evidence in news coverage. We did see tremendous interest in AI, however. Overall, from a media perspective, we overstated this trend. Grade: B.
  5. Telehealth becomes a preferred option, not an alternative. We said "Telehealth will become the preferred option, particularly for therapy or appointments that don’t require hands-on treatment." Subsequently, we heard that medical insurance companies scaled back coverage for telehealth appointments. We said we expected "to see stories on the delivery of healthcare to those who don’t have access to telehealth and whether patients will get the same level of care and attention via virtual sessions as they do with in-person visits," and we did not see much of that. One reason: the continued focus of the ongoing shapeshifting Covid virus. That said, we think telehealth is a great option, and we expect to see some of the coverage about the delivery of health care to occur in 2022. Grade: B-.   
  6. Big Tech’s role will be scrutinized. Not surprisingly, this was a big story throughout the year. Grade: A.
  7. The streaming wars will continue with no real losers. We said we thought that streaming services launched by networks trying to optimize their content will continue because streaming is a way to monetize their content library. One of the new services we didn't expect to like but do because of its quirky old library is Pluto TV; it's a free, ad-supported service leveraging CBS and Paramount's content. While the streaming wars did not get as much attention as we expected, there was a lot of attention to various offerings on many services, and always a lot of interest in Netflix's business. And we were right when we said that the contraction of non-network-based services (Crackle and Tubi, for example) won’t happen in 2021 -- but could happen within 24 months. Grade: A.
  8. In a post-truth era, media polarization will continue and media credibility will decline. Things got worse in 2021 in terms of media polarization, and we wish we were wrong about this. We expect this will continue, especially on the anniversary of the Jan. 6th insurrection -- we saw on Twitter today that there are people disputing that characterization despite the video, despite the sentencing of perpetrators who pled guilty -- and any ongoing investigation into what led up to that day. We also said that we expected "the phrase post-truth to be used quite often in articles that look at the current lack of unity inside the U.S.," and we think that was right, too. Please note: for the purposes of this blog, we're not interested in the politics or the drivers of polarization. The reason we're interested in media polarization is that it makes marketers job much harder, and credibility more challenging to achieve, because ads placed on one network may be construed as an endorsement of the media property's perceived political perspective, whether FOX or MSNBC, so companies need to find a way to dance around this issue. Grade: A.     
  9. The news flow won’t diminish in the first half of the year. We said, "we expect the news flow to continue at its current levels through the fall due to the ongoing pandemic, its impact on the economy and continued volatile political situation. We also expect Doomscrolling will drop off but not fade away in 2021." We have some some media engagement by readers to be on the decline this year but the amount of news has not diminished, and we're still doomscrolling as much as we had hoped to break that habit.  Grade: A.
  10. From a business perspective, the media sector will face a challenging year. This is a problem for advertisers and publicists because newspapers are publishing issues with fewer pages despite the crazy amount of news flow. We've seen coverage of SPACs and Alden's relentless mission to purchase storied news organizations only to decimate newsrooms, diminishing the role these media play in their hometown communities. Grade: A.
  11. More newsrooms will be shuttered. Another prediction we would prefer to have gotten wrong. Grade: B+.
  12. Substack won’t save most reporters. We said, "An email newsletter platform designed to enable reporters to turn readers into paying subscribers, Substack has lured dozens of prominent reporters with the claim of a better business model for journalists to control their destiny and make money." Some reporters have indeed done well on Substack. Long-time Bloomberg Businessweek economics reporter has an interesting column in the New York Times. But others -- like former New York Times privacy project reporter Charlie Warzel -- left for Substack and then jumped ship to the Atlantic. We think newsletters may help media properties reach readers interested in a specific perspective but we don't think it will make it easier for reporters to make gobs of money. We see newsletters as this year's podcast. Many people have them, enjoy producing them, but most aren't making money solely from their newsletter or podcast. We believe we got this right. Grade: A. 
Overall, we got an A- for this year's TrendReport. We are working on our predictions for 2022. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 21, 2021

What We Can Learn by Looking at Past Predictions

We were cleaning up our office last year, sorting through paper files if you can believe it, when we saw a document entitled "Social Media Predictions 2009" -- a simpler age, or so it seems from a near-post-pandemic period.

So we thought it would be fun to see what some of those predictions were, from the perspective of being able to determine if that future ever arrived.

  • They were talking about Web 2.0 back then. The prediction was that social media would bring about a "culture of rapid response." That certainly seems like that occurred. Social media spreads news -- accurate or not -- much more rapidly, often scooping traditional news sources. We do now expect quick response when we post a complaint about a service or product. That was from David Armano, then with Logic + Emotion.
  • One prediction said that in 2009, marketers would move from assigning "responsibility for social media strategy to the most logical person in the communication team" to allowing the most passionate individual from any division to lead social media efforts." Even now, that sounds like a smart move. But the reality is that social media marketing is often handed off to the youngest team member, based on the hope that they understand this social media thing better than Boomer bosses.
  • That same prediction also said marketers would go from reaching "out to the biggest bloggers you could find" in 2008 to targeting "the most relevant bloggers for your campaign, (offering) them something of value and build relationships." Again, interesting idea. But we've seen clients who want to reach the biggest bloggers and podcasters (something that wasn't a thing back then) and shy away from those who are passionate but don't have broad reach. Influence can't always be measured by reach, and podcasters often don't have (or prefer not to share) metrics, the way traditional media does. We think it makes sense to target relevant bloggers and podcasters even if they don't have huge numbers but it's important to justify the executive's time or else walk away from the opportunity.
  • Another prediction was that "2009 will also be the year we rediscover the appeal of 'live intimacy,'" live conversations with online consumers and also that we will "see more companies doling out good old fashioned hand-written notes and letters" based on the premise that "intimacy touches emotion." We think that was a swing and a miss. Not that hand-written notes and letters might not break through the clutter -- we think they would. But it takes time, special talent and more time, to be able to hand-write notes to customers.
  • One pundit said "TV will be a big focus, because viewership in aggregate is actually going up." Perhaps it did. But more than a decade later, TV viewership even of once-major events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, are in decline.
  • Chris Brogan had two interesting predictions. He said there would be a rise in Velvet Rope Social Networks -- sites that "aren't 'come one, come all.'" We don't think that's entirely true but Clubhouse certainly fits that. He also said there would be "Lots of Consolidation and Shuttering." He was right about that, too. For a client interested in reaching regional business-oriented podcasters as well as national innovation-based podcasts, we found that many ideal podcasters stopped production as recently as 2020 but there were tons of reasonable podcasts that ceased production in the three years prior. 
  • One prediction was that while clients "are eager to explore the benefits of social media engagement, (many) are absolutely terrified of the potential downsides...The tipping point has not only not been reached could still tilt away from social media if negatives outweigh positive examples." We think it would be interesting to return to a world before social media mattered, where companies could walk away from social media. But that's not the world we live in. So most companies, even complex B2Bs, do need to find a way to engage via social media.
  • Ann Handley of MarkteingProfs said that companies will increasingly craft content. That's certainly true. With traditional media shrinking (as it has for much of the past decade), companies must generate their own content.
  • Scott Monty, then at Ford, had a couple of accurate predictions, including: "Twitter will continue to achieve legitimacy." It certainly has. He also said, "Online video will come into its own." That also became true and I don't think it was so obvious back in 2008.  
  • Other predictions:
    • Google would buy Twitter.
    • "Blogger outreach from PR pros will get better, but not much." We think this one from Jason Falls, is accurate.
    • Better metrics. That may have come true but we still need better, more accurate and faster metrics.
    • eCommerce will go social by allowing "consumers to use the critiques from people they don't know." 
    • "People will rally to support companies they love when hard times hits." We think this prediction from Andy Sernovitz came true.
    • "We finally settle the debate over whether PR or Marketing 'owns' social media." Sorry, we did not. Although we've seen PR functions integrated into Marketing, which means Marketing probably does 'own' social media after all.
    • One pundit said that "After much election season talk about Obama's social media presidency,'" many will "realize that his win had less to do with his innovative use of social media than we'd thought." Well, that may have been true. But we did see how Trump's use of social media was vital to his visibility and reach.  
The conclusions included: "We understand the technologies but need to employ them with a human empathy" and that measurement and relevance are key to success. That still seems to be the case. We guess this is a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Bloomberg Businessweek Validates Our Supply Chain Prediction

 Back in January -- which, like so much of our time during the pandemic, seems like ages ago -- we issued our annual set of predictions. This year, among our predictions, we said that "We will all become more aware of supply chains."  

 There have been many other articles about supply chain issues -- like we're running low on semiconductors in part because of strong demand for cars and running low of sheetrock because of a rise in the number of renovations -- but Bloomberg Businessweek described what's going on as Fear of Running Out (FORO). 

It's worth checking out the Bloomberg article because this is likely to affect all of us. We have several new clients this year, and we've already been asking them how they will prepare for possible supply chain shortages. 

It's an issue that businesses need to prepare for because their suppliers may be already affected.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

6 Additional Media Trends for 2021

Of course the biggest story in 2021 will continue to be COVID-19 pandemic, the rollout of vaccines, the reopening of businesses, gathering at sporting events, holidays, family celebrations and getting back to normal.

Though we're not sure what "getting back to normal" will actually look like.

We do know that reporters, who had to adjust to covering the impact of the pandemic on their particular beats, will continue to cover both their beat areas and the pandemic. For example, sports reporters continue to cover games, trades, etc. while also reporting on games cancelled because of athletes who tested positive. What might be different is that they're testing positive to COVID, not to steroids. (As compared to a decade or so ago when steroid use in baseball was a big problem.)

In this post, we will look at six additional trends we think will be important this year. If they look familiar from 2020, they are. These are long-term trends affecting the media world, and are important to note because they address the daily circumstances that affect reporters. With an understanding of some of the variables reporters contend with can help when pitching stories to the media, developing marketing campaigns with media outlets, etc. 

  1. In a post-truth era, media polarization will continue and media credibility will decline. For years now, Americans have been living in a post-truth era – in which there’s a lack of shared, objective facts. Unfortunately, the growing distrust of the media and the chasm between media bubbles will get worse in 2021, especially on social media. This is bad for business because it exacerbates polarization and diminishes the credibility of all media outlets – making it harder for marketers to reach broad population segments while making it easier to unintentionally alienate parts of the population. Bonus thought: we expect the phrase post-truth to be used quite often in articles that look at the current lack of unity inside the U.S., fueled by social media and conspiracy theories and the immediate past administration.     
  2. The news flow won’t diminish in the first half of the year. The chaos of news over the past few years boosted engagement with news sources as people tried to keep up and make sense of it all. Despite a change to a presumably more-disciplined/boring administration, we expect the news flow to continue at its current levels through the fall due to the ongoing pandemic, its impact on the economy and continued volatile political situation. We also expect Doomscrolling will drop off but not fade away in 2021. The implication for marketers is that it may be hard to get the attention of reporters and producers as well as from consumers while they continue to be distracted by the latest developments.
  3. From a business perspective, the media sector will face a challenging year. Although we’re confident about demand for news will stay steady, we know demand by itself has not been the panacea for the media. In broadcast news, there’s a battle for viewers between Fox versus NewsMax and OAN plus a possible new threat if Donald Trump launches or buys a media property. Meanwhile, among newspapers and magazines, the New York Times, Wall St. Journal and Washington Post, and People are doing well, but the rest haven’t found a sustainable business model, especially because retail advertising has dropped due to COVID. Keep in mind: despite the strong demand for news, thousands of newsroom positions were cut in 2020, especially at local media, and that, sadly, will continue in 2021.
  4. More newsrooms will be shuttered. Since the start of the pandemic, most reporters have been working remotely so some companies have decided to save money by shuttering physical newsrooms including New York Daily News, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, and other big papers, much less at smaller, regional papers. That’s not a good thing because we feel there is real value in training junior staffers, which becomes harder when they’re working remotely from mentors. It also makes it harder for PR functions because it’s much harder to call reporters when they’re working from home, and have given up or rarely check their office voicemail.
  5. There are fewer reporters working, but it seems like there's more news than ever. Especially at local media, which increasingly seem understaffed, reporters are overwhelmed. They have to file more stories with fewer resources and less time between in which to develop stories. In years past, they would have had time to talk to the executive and get an original quote and add some insight into the announcement. We're not blaming reporters -- we blame the economics that have resulted in the layoffs of tens of thousands reporters over the last few years. Given smaller staffs, there's just not enough time to interview every executive. At some outlets, reporters are told they must file a certain number of stories per day. And when they're done with a story, they need to cross-promote it via social media. 
  6. Substack won’t save most reporters. An email newsletter platform designed to enable reporters to turn readers into paying subscribers, Substack has lured dozens of prominent reporters with the claim of a better business model for journalists to control their destiny and make money. Some, like historian Heather Cox Richardson, have thousands of paying subscribers and generate significant money via their Substack newsletter. But it’s not a solution that will scale and save the industry or even help most reporters. For PR professionals, it will mean evaluating new media targets and explaining to clients why a Substack newsletter represents a worthwhile opportunity.
All these issues still remain in force in 2021, and PR functions need to be aware of them in order to be successful in dealing with the media.