As if it isn’t tough enough being in editorial at the moment, shocking news today that a prominent blogger has had death threats made because of the impartial and informative views and reviews posted on his blog. Incredible.

Michael Arrington, founder of the influential tech blog TechCrunch has said he will be ‘taking a break’ from blogging on the site, following threats made, which included being spat in the face at a recent Conference in Munich.

Arrington, widely-recognised as one of the most prominent bloggers on the planet, has taken the decision to halt his online editorials temporarily, having hired a security team to oversee him and his family. The death threats have been classified as genuine, serious and with very real intent to actually endanger life, sources state.

To be fair, and to offer some editorial balance, Arrington is not a helpless victim here: he has a legal background and has been accused in the past of strong tactics, including online bullying, to get his points across and bring the revenue streams into TechCrunch. Tactics which included slamming the New York Times. Dangerous move.

All of this aside, however, a death threat remains a pretty O.T.T. way of expressing distain at online editorial. I had better be nicer to Rubella from Ostentatious PR for a while. Ahem.

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Well, I thought the week had been going a little too smoothly – even given the fact it’s a production week on one of the magazines. And, as if by magic, within three minutes of that thought, a PR relative of the infamous Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR was on the phone. And she truly surpassed herself.

In the words of Run DMC, it goes a little something like this:

Phone rings.

Editor: Hello, ****** speaking.

Rubella MkII: Hi. Do you have a Features List?

Editor: Sure, for which magazine. We publish two here and a number of business Directories.

Rubella MkII: Oh right. Erm. Don’t you do the Disability magazine now?

Editor: ‘Fraid not, that title was pulled more than a year ago. Don’t you have any up-to-date Media databases?

Rubella MkII: Erm. We might have something of use to you.

Editor: Only if it’s relevant to the printing and/or sign industries – do you?

Rubella MkII: Erm. Aah. We promote hearing aids.

Editor: Can’t see how my Readerships will be too bothered about that. Do you have anything relevant?

Rubella MkII: Isn’t that relevant? Can you use that for those magazines?

Editor: Not onless we launch a niche magazine to hard-of-hearing print directors. Or deaf sign makers. Ahem.

Rubella MkII: Erm. (No laugh, or indication of a joke having just been made)

Editor: Thanks for the call, I must get back to production on our totally-irrelevant-to-your-Client mags.

Rubella MkII: Erm. OK. Bye.

And there we have it. Now, before any of the fabulously effective, switched-on PRs and PR Account Directors out there deem it fit to tell me I was harsh and unfair on an individual who is so clearly an inexperienced, ill-informed, and pretty damn green PR Account Exec, think on this – who instructed her to put the call through in the first place?

Aah, yes, an Account Director, looking to write something/anything under the ‘Media Relations’ column of Deaf and Dumb Hearing Applications Ltd’s PR Client Contact Report for the month of January. Give me strength.

I think I’ll start naming and shaming these awful PRs, re-dress the balance a bit. Ready Rubella? You’re up first.

Fascinating article in today’s Media Guardian from pundit Jeff Jarvis concerning a possible future for Journalism, amid the ongoing swathe of cutbacks and redundancies in newsroom across the UK and USA. One of the interesting points raised by Jarvis was the following:

“Journalism’s business and revenue, like its content, will become collaborative and networked. No one company will control news in a market any more; none can afford to.”

Jarvis discusses the not-inconsiderable number of redundancies in American newsrooms  – more than fifteen and a half thousand over the last 12 months, as the pace of online news and bloggers inputs has outstripped the ability of print newspaper bosses in the States to attain consistent profitability in their commercial operations.

Part of this has been due to the simple fact that more and more consumers, audiences and former newspaper readers are sourcing news, features and opinions online than ever before. And this trend looks set to migrate with vigour to the UK. We are seeing it already, of course, to an extent.

But if the way audiences – and advertisers trying to gain their attention – are viewing journalism and sourcing news in this different way is growing pace, why is there a stumbling non-acceptance from the tradition newspaper business models to adapt more quickly, to respond positively and enhance their content offerings? The solution thusfar has been to cut costs and dump editorial staff on the street in an attempt to improve the bottom line. Or, at least, in the UK, there seems to have been consolidation in the extreme in this way.

I recall being made redundant by Northcliffe Newspaper Group years ago – from a decision made by the number-crunchers in London, rather than the management tier at the grassroots in the Bristol region, and wondering then – Why is it, at a time when my editorial Department is performing better than ever, hitting and beating targets, giving the marketing and advertising teams additional assistance in finding and keeping new revenue streams, do we find journalistic resources being cut here?

That question never got answered.

And, I fear, the same will be the case for the current Media staff being laid off. Well, they can blame the Recession of course.

Just heard on the grapevine that 45 out of 154 jobs are to be cut at Bristol News & Media – including the Western Daily Press and Bristol Evening Post. The papers have already seen 20 percent of staffers cut in the last three years, according to sources.

BBC Points West is broadcasting at half six on this breaking News story. Hard times indeed for Bristol Media.

Well according to this post, the time is coming. And we can thank digital media for it.

A great post from the NUJ Left, commenting on a speech by one of the world’s most prominent media theorists Douglas Rushkoff, Professor of Communications at NYU, highlighting that with the reversal of consumers now becoming producers thanks to the growth of digital media, this is leading inexorably to the demise of the media corporations – we can see evidence of this in the myriad of cutbacks, newsroom redundancies and newspaper closures in the last six months in the UK alone.

And it doesn’t look like a trend which is turning about face anytime soon.

Of course, the continued migration of money to online media channels through increased advertising and readership interest levels on the Web will fill the corporate number-crunchers at the media corporations with dread, but if sustainability and commercial adaptability mean more than just words to these guys, a change is going to have to come. And soon.

Fascinating insights from Rushkoff – well worth a read.

As if maintaining circulation figures for print newspapers and magazines wasn’t difficult enough for Editors in today’s economic environment – now, according to this fascinating article in the Guardian Media – new media channels will force Editors handling content across offline and online mediums to consider web traffic patterns, online readership trends, and clickstream, among other key factors, in the way they manage publications online.

It appears that being able to manage a publication online is also going to be increasingly measured by the routes to the publication, the amount of time a reader stays on certain pages, where they navigate to, and which Columnists they follow for leading opinion on the issues of the day. As more readers migrate online, so too inevitably will the advertisers. Stalemate.

Furthermore, there will be a battle fought between publishers of multiple sources of content from easily-obtainable sites online, and those news-gatherers and opinion formers and thought-leaders which comment on the same issues being cut-and-pasted online from a myriad of web information. There will be a differentiation of readerships – and, of course, advertisers.

A compelling – and in some ways terrifying – commentary on a possible future for Editors’ roles in the new media landscape.

In light if that information, consider this: if you are looking to gain editorial commentary to boost your profile, or to advertise in a key publication to re-inforce your company’s messages…where will you be looking for maximum impact?

Given the detailed measurability available when analysing readership and advertising patterns, the Web will increasingly win.

More advice for PRs

January 18, 2009

Here’s a basic Media Relations Masterclass for Rubelle Pymley-Bowles and her sushi sisters from Ostentatious PR…just a few hints and tips on how to professionally, practically and powerfully liase with the Press on behalf of less-well-informed Clients.

THE BASICS

1: Find the unique, interesting and different elements of your business.

2: Ensure you can prove any statements you make with cold, hard facts.

3: Research every publication – do not send blanket emails or editorial.

4: Remember that you need to earn a journalist’s trust and respect over time.

5: Make your press releases lively, fact-filled and relevant – not PR spin.

6: Utilise your knowledge and present your editorial with personality.

7: Do not ever mention you advertise with a publication to a journalist.

8: Remember that all News is people-based. Bring them out of your business.

9: Do not try to be controversial for the sake of it. Journalists get bored easily.

10: To hold attention, all you need to be is relevant, timely and interesting.

11: Request a Forward Features list on first contact, as and where relevant.

12: Never question a journalist’s editorial judgement. It’s their domain.

13: Remember that ‘off the record’ is usually an area of immense danger.

14: Only target relevant publications for your products or services. No spam.

15: Appreciate that the journalist is not there to serve you – other way round.

16: Do not be chatty, gossipy or unprofessional. Stay focussed and brief.

17: If you can offer fresh, new, exciting content regularly – perfect contact.

18: Track the career moves of journalists you know – build a media database.

19: Realise that most publications have online versions and online journalists.

20: Monitor target media yourself and build up a published Press portfolio.

PRESS RELEASES

21: Never make a press release more than two sides long – brevity counts.

22: Write the headline last – it should flow once the press release is complete.

23: Make sure you have one item of News only, not a series of items.

24: Utilise one key individual for your business as the quoted person.

25: Do not try to be funny, witty, smart or sarcastic – present the facts only.

26: Only use statistics if you can back them up with attributed sources.

27: Do not knock down your competitors – it’s unprintable and unprofessional.

28: Piggy-backing on a current News issue is great – if you add editorial value.

29: Ensure you supply at least one high-resolution image at 300dpi.

30: Make sure any pictures are taken professionally, not by an amateur.

31: Remember who the editor is presenting the story to – be relevant to them.

32: Never ring a journalist to ask why a press release was not published.

33: If your editorial is included, add value by presenting a Feature around it.

34: Utilise knowledge and expertise – only add opinion if totally essential.

35: Avoid PR jargon such as ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘industry-leading’ phrases.

36: A press release is like a perfectly-formed circle – end it where you start.

37: Understand the editorial structure of the publication before you write.

38: The first paragraph needs to tell the entire News item, and succinctly.

39: Be positive, upbeat and engaging in your editorial, but forget the PR spin.

40: Do not re-send the same press release. Send it once and media monitor.

DEADLINES

41: Always ask a journalist if they are on deadline. Always. Every time.

42: Understand that a journalist is busy, stressed, bombarded – help them.

43: If a journalist needs information, provide it without question or delay.

44: Do not miss a deadline given by a journalist. You get one chance at this.

45: Make your conversations to the point – ideally, only ring with one point.

46: Appreciate that you are not the Editor’s best friend, and never will be.

47: Understand that the paramount thing on a journalist’s mind is deadlines.

48: Make yourself available to give comments on deadline when needed.

49: Be consistent, reliable and a ‘safe pair of hands’ for a ‘rent-a-quote’ item.

50: Understand the publication’s deadline and editorial production structure.

51: News changes rapidly – do not be upset if a deadline removes your story.

52: Understand different deadline structures for magazines and newspapers.

53: The pace of News-gathering is increased when you deal with online Press.

54: Include a blog hyperlink with all emails – it gives more content on deadline.

55: Provide content, features, comment in one accessible place for a journalist.

56: Ensure your website has a Press area with editorial and images included.

57: Remain professional and polite when dealing with journalists on deadline.

58: If a journalist is on deadline, ask when is a good time to contact them.

59: Every journalist respects their deadlines, and so must you to gain ground.

60: Journalists will usually be more stressed and less receptive on deadline.

TALKING TO THE PRESS

61: Research the name and title of any journalist you intend to speak to.

62: Practice the conversation before you pick up the phone.

63: Never ring a journalist on deadline.

64: Always ask a journalist if they are able to speak before you continue.

65: Demonstrate you read the publication – identify different editorial sections.

66: Offer an exclusive wherever possible to the journalist.

67: Never mention competing publications, it usually winds an Editor up.

68: Ring a journalist to brief them of a relevant issue you can comment on.

69: Do not contact a journalist to see if they have received a press release.

70: If a journalist requires additional information, provide it within the hour.

71: When contacting a publication, be polite to everyone. People talk.

72: Demonstrate your expertise when possible, but do not ramble on.

73: Never interrupt a journalist – let them tell you what they want and when.

74: Add editorial value to the publication with every interaction you have.

75: Brief a journalist before you send a press release – by phone and quickly.

76: Do not invite a journalist out to lunch unless you add real editorial value.

77: Only present yourself as an expert or industry guru if you can back it up.

78: Be passionate about your business – talk to the Press from the heart.

79: Do not try to use the Press as a mouthpiece to gain column inches. Ever.

80: Work with a journalist, become a trusted source of information and ideas.

THE ESSENTIALS

81: Do not offer an exclusive to more than one journalist. Common sense.

82: Follow your target publications religiously and identify opportunities.

83: Realise that media relations is straightforward, and not a Dark Art.

84: Being in regular contact with a journalist will never guarantee publication.

85: The media landscape is changing – be aware of editorial nuances.

86: Be confident, calm and collected in your dealings with the Press.

87: Understand that successful media relations is not about PR spin.

88: If you ever lie, or mis-represent, to a journalist – say goodbye for ever.

89: Journalists are busy most of the time – but they are still human beings.

90: Have an awareness of the political leanings of a publication. It matters.

91: Do what you say you will, on time, and as agreed with a journalist.

92: If asked to provide editorial, keep to the word count requested. Always.

93: Journalists know what they want and need – do not second guess them.

94: Never mention that you used to be a journalist. It is totally irrelevant.

95: You might think you can outsmart a journalist. Wrong – it’s their rules.

96: PR schmoozing holds an increasingly useless impact to the Media.

97: Sending flowers, free gifts and the like rarely influences publication.

98: Do not be nervous or stuttery – present the facts and the angle. Simply.

99: Always back up your information with reputable sources and facts.

100: Remember that your News is useful, but not invaluable, to the Press.

RULE NUMBER 101: Never, ever, break Rules 1-100.

Surely not?!

Well, according to this from PR man Paul Seaman, the time could well be nigh.

Seaman argues, and very eloquently, that the age of  Churnalism is reaching something of a zenith, and given the increasingly dramatic economic conditions in which the average journalist is operating, the need for collaboration between PRs and the Press has never been greater. More editorial cutbacks means increased deadline pressure.

Maybe this should be amended to the need for effective PR has never been greater. The likes of Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR will always receive a frosty welcome from any time-pressured Editor.

The PR fluff still rains down on my Inbox daily, Recession or no Recession. It would appear that there are still a sizeable number of UK-based Clients still in the position financially to fork out PR Fees for the production of editorial turds for Media consumption from jumped-up Account Executives, being driven mercilessly and thoughtlessly forward by number-crunching Account Directors and the like. This, of course, adds no value to my Readerships on the magazines I edit – and never will.

That said, if the tiny percentage of decent PRs – and I can currently count them on 1 hand only – can continue to demonstrate a true collaboration, deliver the goods on deadline, commit to producing editorial which adds value for my audiences, whilst remaining sensitive to the demands of a burgeoning Inbox filled with PR fluff and poorly-veiled ‘editorial’ sales adverts…then maybe we can see a more productive interaction between editorial and PR in 2009.

Maybe.

That aside, Seaman’s observations are well worth a read: whether you’re running a newsroom or delivering PR.

Food for thought here as Jeff Jarvis discusses the ground-breaking news that the online advertising revenues of the Los Angeles Times are now, according to Editor Russ Stanton, sufficient to cover the entire newspaper’s editorial costs – for both print and online newsrooms within the organisation.

This marks the making, and potential breaking, of print newspapers as the online medium surges ever forward in 2009.

Before us ‘contemporary’ media folk get too excited, however, Jarvis highlights a number of mitigating factors – such as the culling of the LA Times newsroom from 1,220 editorial staff to 660 – which have led to the historic point in newspapers today.

It will be interesting to see how the British Press, including the vast Trade Media sector, respond to this development.

From small acorns grow magnificent oaks, so they say…and judging by this item today from the Guardian team, the saying may well be true for this digital media venture which I picked up. A wonderful story about battling Recession with a winning media vision.

Writer and editor Steven Watson has started to gain ground with his independent magazine online subscription service Stack, claiming that the niche indie magazine market is one which will always have a small but perfectly formed brigade of Raving Fans from which to build his fledgling media-based business. And I hope it gains positive ground in 2009.

Good to see an upbeat publishing story, amidst the recent jobs cuts, redundancies and newsroom staff slashes.