For a publicly held telco client last March, we developed a focused media list of reporters at top-tier newspapers and magazines that we thought would be interested in a specific story based on their recent news coverage.
We pitched these reporters in the spring and continued to develop and pitch different reporters for the client. By October, we had another story that we thought might appeal to the initial set of reporters, all at name-brand traditional media like the New York Times, Fortune, and others at that level.
What we found interesting was that of a list of fewer than 20 reporters, about 40% had left their perches to move to writing newsletters or for online sites that are not as well known and don't have the same clout or prestege.
Since we were tasked with working only with top-tier media, that raised several issues:
- We needed to educate the client that some reporters who write online newsletters -- whether for themselves via Substack or for newspapers (like former longtime Businessweek reporter Peter Coy, who writes a newsletter for the New York Times) -- are still very influential and must be considered. This is important because as the media shifts, we need to re-evaluate the media we follow.
- We had to evaluate reporters' new outlets to determine if those outlets met the client's criteria. Honestly, we were hoping they might land at cool new publications we should be considering as top-tier. Yet, although we expected reporters to move from one top-tier media to another -- for example, leave MarketWatch or AP for WSJ (a sister publication) or Bloomberg -- many did not. They didn't even join top-tier online publications like TechCrunch, which would still have worked for our purposes. One reporter left Fortune for a gaming publication so that involved a change in what she wrote about. Was that move predicated by a love of gaming? By budget cutbacks? We always look for trends or for an understanding of what's driving change but we couldn't find a consistent or reasonable explanation.
- We had to look for replacements at those publications that might be interested in the client and its story. Interestingly, many of those positions remained unstaffed. And we're not talking about an obscure industry beat. We were looking for reporters who cover internet (but not social media) and telecommunications, which are mainstays of business sections. In some cases, other reporters picked up some of the coverage but in other cases. But we were shocked that beats did not appear to be fully covered. That would have once been unthinkable.
- How should we define top-tier media in 2022? Who should be included now? Are there outlets that may no longer be as important?
- Why are reporters leaving? Is it part of the Great Resignation? Is it due to budget cutbacks? What can we learn from this?
- Are top-tier media changing the focus of what they're covering? If so, what are the implications for clients that do not fit into new coverage areas?