The traditional media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa are at an all time low, battered by the exponential growth and use of new, highly competitive and “disruptive” digital media formats as well as a worldwide economic crisis that is exacerbating the decline of already outdated and failing business models, according to a wide-ranging survey of senior journalists carried out by the global communications firm Burson-Marsteller.
Burson-Marsteller media experts interviewed 115 senior journalists from 27 countries throughout the region to get an inside view of how they perceived the state of their industry in their countries and to understand how the economic crisis was affecting the industry; the effects of the digital revolution; and how PR and media relations professionals can best adapt to the rapidly transforming media landscape.
Says Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller EMEA, “From the responses of the journalists interviewed, it is clear that the essential skills and best practices of media relations have not changed despite the transformation of the industry itself. Indeed, if anything, they have become even more important than they were before.”
In the survey, a strikingly common response was that enormous numbers of journalists were being put out of work. All across EMEA, media organizations are significantly downsizing their editorial teams. Even for journalists lucky enough still to remain in full-time employment, there was little to cheer, with job uncertainty, vastly increased workloads, demands for multi-platform content, less editorial space to put that content into and—in many cases—moves to “dumb down” content and editorial agendas in general.
There was broad agreement among the journalists interviewed that the quality and standards of their trade were being diminished, both as an inevitable result of the austerity measures, as well as a direct effect of the new media explosion.
There was no consensus, however, about whether the digital revolution taking place in their industry was a positive or negative development. Most agreed that new digital tools had given them unprecedented access to information, all at the touch of their fingertips. However, the increased competition—as well as the “de-professionalisation” of their trade through citizen journalism—were all cited as serious causes for concern.
As one senior French journalist commented: “The internet makes it much more difficult to distinguish news from noise.”
The majority of journalists surveyed said that PR agencies played an increasingly vital role in their work, either as sources of relevant information, leads for stories, or as conduits to relevant sources. The overwhelming majority also said that they trusted PR professionals the same or more than they did before.
According to Dennis Landsbert-Noon, chairman of the firm’s EMEA media practice: “As the media industry undergoes these tremendous changes, there is both an onus on us to ensure that our standards remain exemplary, as well as an opportunity for us to use new and exciting digital tools to communicate with traditional journalists as well as a whole new digital and social media landscape.”