Everything is a story. A strong communicator understands the truth of that sentence, and the power that being a good storyteller carries.
Historically, this understanding has always thrived at an intersection of public relations and journalism. Both industries specialise in collecting facts and ideas and packaging them into powerful prose.
But in the shrinking press industry shadowed by Web 2.0, times are changing. The search for engaging content has been replaced with the search for whatever will generate the most page clicks, and no, the two are not always synonymous.
It’s what journalist Tom Foremski calls page view journalism. Many online journalists are producing content based on how many views the story will receive, not necessarily how engaging the story is. Even if it’s great original content, if the editor doesn’t think it will sell to a mass audience, it gets buried.
It’s a sad truth for journalism and public relations. It’s a sad truth for anyone who understands that some of the greatest stories come from the most unusual places. It’s a sad truth for storytelling.
A recent report in PR Daily highlights the changes in the digital news industry and the shrinking of traditional newsrooms. Budgets are being cut, and senior staffers are being laid off. The journalist who once covered your company is now responsible for covering your entire industry.
“It’s now a luxury for a reporter to write a story about an obscure but important topic. That used to be a job requirement. Now it’s a career risk,” writes Sam Whitmore of ITMemos.
“Let’s say an interesting startup has a new and different idea. Many reporters now won’t touch it because (a) the story won’t generate page views, and (b) few people search on terms germane to that startup. Potential SEO performance is now a key factor in what gets assigned.”
How do we accommodate for this? Has a great story been replaced by a strong SEO performance? Not completely. But at the same time, it means our ability to tell a story must be greater than ever before (no pressure).
The second important note is to address shortfalls in the PR pitch, and prepare your own solutions for how you’re going to accommodate ‘pageview journalism’. What if the small company you represent won’t generate enough clicks, even though they have an innovative idea? PR Daily suggests outlining steps for how to drive up traffic once the story has already been published. These would be things like having the client brand share the article on its Facebook, Twitter, and blog page, sharing the link with relevant sources and similar companies within the industry, and potentially even buying keywords that will increase the story’s SEO.
Page view journalism, while disheartening, won’t be disappearing any time soon. Which is why it’s necessary to be prepared to recognise and accommodate for this—so we can all get to the real story.