Interesting question – and in the light of today‘s article from the team at HoldTheFrontPage – a particularly relevant one for newsroom staff and freelance journalists alike across the UK.

It appears that the proposed media mergers may not be such an attractive and sustainable proposition after all. With expected in-fighting, ongoing cutbacks, and the impossible attempts to merge different newspaper ideologies on a regional basis, there may need to be a re-think on how to keep the British newspaper industry afloat in the regions.

No coincidence, then, that the 108-page report submitted for consideration by the leading regional publishers currently lobbying the Government to relax the rules on mergers are also keeping the details of their document private at this time. Perhaps it contains reading which regional editors would find hard to digest?

Perhaps the focus remains firmly on the number-crunchers cutting editorial – even in the simple fact that balance sheets for many of these leading regional publishers continue to highlight significant profitability across titles.

The report and attempted moves to regional merger will provide slim comfort to the thousands of journalists across the UK already feeling the pinch of greed-laden Management. Would you collaborate with a competitor to survive?

Would you – really? Many newsrooms may be asking themselves this pressing question at the moment. Your answer?

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Interesting blog here covering the disintegration of news coverage regionally in the States, from the ex-City Editor of the Winsconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.

The point of particular interest, for me, are the numbers covering the decline in the amount of local content being placed in the paper – the rot seems to have been ongoing for years. There have been similar patterns in the UK regional newspaper market, of course, as any editor will tell you.

Content cuts which have hit communities hard. Reader interest drops, advertisers wane, businesses switch off…the rot continues until the regional office is either closed and merged into a central operation – a favourite trick of Northcliffe Group – or we see yet more journos consigned to the redundancy queues across the country.

Wish I could provide something a bit more upbeat on a Friday afternoon – the blog, however, does highlight an ongoing and worrying trend in the slow and painful death of regional news globally. What’s your story?

Have you worked it out yet?

The true importance and meaning of great content, that is. And let’s be honest here, it’s content which drives the dominates the sales of newspapers, magazines, adverts on blogs…basically, without the substance of content to push sales, forget it.

Great post here confirming this simple and inescapable truth. It is editorial content which continues to push and increase the poularity of certain sites, blogs and online forums as we see the inexorable shift for redership demand further and further onto the online medium. The days of newspapers enjoying the audience attention monopoly are long gone. Forever.

And Dave Clark‘s great post on copyblogger.com highlights how to be truly effective as a content provider – whether that be in the form of journalist, feature editor, online marketer, blogger…it all boils down to the same thing. Forget about me, me, me.

The only way to be noticed, effective, positive, and ultimately profitable in the content generation game now is to focus on your reader’s needs and wants. It is all about them, not you. Stop using hackneyed selling techniques – if your website is a poorly-veiled sales-type window shop, get ready for your competitor’s contemporary blog and interactive online presence to blast a significant hole in your sales in the next 12 months.

Content which informs, adds value, solves a problem: this is the best way forward for you if you need to have a commercial presence on the Web. Anything else will be passed by as your potential customers look for solutions and services.

So, on balance, as a content generator – bravo to copyblogger! Fantastic points well made. Forget about you – embrace giving.

Another great post from Jeff Jarvis here on the ongoing paid-for content debate.

With newspaper sales in continued decline, and the burgeoning number of readerships sourcing their news online, and mostly for free, it pushes the number-crunchers in traditional newspaper organisations to the very limits of what can be achieved and maintained as more and more newspapers go the wall.

Jarvis argues that new business models are urgently needed, and in part I agree: if the older newspaper hierarchies are unable to compete with newer, online models, they must adapt – and more rapidly than they might at first seems able to. We have seen great steps forward with most of the daily newspapers in the UK, with the larger regionals following suit and presenting a content offering online. But it doesn’t go for enough.

Take a look at the way the American news organisations present themselves – the case of the New York Times is a strong example. It has fought hard and continues to lead the way with innovation and revenue-building ideas.

What do we have in the UK? Take a look at the offer presented by Northcliffe in the regions – a homogenised offering which cut and pastes the newsroom stories mixed with generic features and a fingers-crossed approach to revenue building. Or so it seems.

But with news-based organisations stripping down their news-gathering resources in the regions – more and more regional newsrooms are being closed and pushed into a reduced version in the Bristol Evening Post building by Northcliffe, for example, we can see the strength of pure, focused, professional journalism suffering daily.

Not that I am a harbinger of doom. Far from it. But change needs to happen – from the top down, perhaps, not the other way round?

It’s all getting very confusing for many – and there are no signs of it getting any clearer in the near future.

No, I am not talking about continued editorial cutback and redundancies amidst the Recession – but rather the continued, rapid, and at times bewildering developments within the world of social media.

To the uninitiated editor, the world of blogging, podcasting, twittering and the like can seem a world away from the good old days when the most difficult thing to worry about was flat-planning a magazine or newspaper. Today, publishing online is an essential part of the mix if a publisher wants to live long or happily in the creative spaces of publishing, journalism and related sectors.

And whilst as an editor of a few years’ standing, it was comforting for me to recall the days when the company website actually was only a shop window and the monthly magazines were still the bread & butter of the business: being involved in the commercial process today can seem incredibly intimidating to the old-school world of editors out there. Ahem.

I, however, find it exciting, enthralling and am enthused to see publications kicked dragging and screaming online, forced to shape up, increase content value and amounts to an ever-increasing online audince which is demanding more openness, more editorial transparency, more engagement and, ultimately, more involvement with the requirements of customers, with readers.

I found this excellent analysis of what’s happening within social media at the moment. It sums up nicely the confusing world in which content creators need to exist to stay on top of the various sources of editorial information their audiences are wanting.

Congratulations to author Matthew Buckland. I certainly smiled. And will be following his blog when I need clarity in the social media maze from now on. Sometimes, the simplest expression of a complex concept is all that’s required for a journo.

The aim here is simple – to give you a winning formula to create attention-grabbing press releases. So you can create a new press release from a proven template, and gain publication – hopefully every time you submit the editorial to a Press contact.

Outline:
According to many in PR, writing a press release for media consumption is filled with little-known nuances, subtle twists and turns, a special language understood by the press and PRs only, and a myriad of other ‘rules’ to gain entry into the privileged position of gaining publication.

This, basically, is not the case. Writing a winning press release is not a secret formula, part of a Dark Art, or rocket science. It is a straightforward process.

Obviously, a PR Consultant or Agency wants you to think this. They don’t want you to have the skills to write your own highly-effective, relevant, newsworthy editorial items, because then they wouldn’t be hired to do it for you. Simple.

But the truth is, a press release is only a news-conveyance tool. It informs and educates. It inspires debate, attention, confidence in a company or individual. It also, conveniently, raises profile and passes on key messages. And sales.

So, let’s get you on the road to creating a prefect press release. Remember, it is not rocket science – but there are a few basics you’ll need to implement.

First things first:
There are five basic ingredients which will make up your press release, namely
* Angle – what is the main thrust of the news in the editorial
* Unique – you will have something unique, different or interesting to say
* Relevance – you News will be highly relevant to the readership
* Value – your news will add value to the publication’s content
* Timeliness – the editorial will be timely, contemporary and factual

These five key ingredients are worth looking at in a bit more detail, to fully understand how crucial each one is in gaining publication time after time.

* Angle – the thrust, or storyline, of your press release is the driving force and main ‘hook & hold’ for the media. Your angle, therefore, needs to be focused, based on a News item in your business, and with no superfluous details.

* Unique – your press release must convey news that is different, unique and interesting. To put is plainly, it must tell the readership something useful which will enrich their lives. And this doesn’t just mean try to flog them something.

* Relevance – to be truly relevant to a publication, you need to be able to offer the readership a product, service, opinion or similar which is of benefit and use to them in their everyday business or personal lives.

* Value – to add value to a publication’s content is a potential minefield, as ‘value’ is determined by the editorial team, rather than what you think is of value to the readership. Extreme and common sense are needed here.

* Timeliness – to provide a timely press release essentially means that your news is contemporary, factual and ‘now’ rather than about an event or launch which happened three months ago. Be aware of current affairs and impacts.

Press release template:
Every press release is formed from a basic template design, which follows the same structure and layout: in essence it goes like this:

* Headline – one line in length, snappy, no clichés, hints at story and angle
* First paragraph – sums up the entire news item in one brief element
* Second to tenth paragraphs – bulk of news item, with relevant quotations
* Final paragraph – ends the news item, ideally with a confirming quotation
* Contact details – of the press release supplier. Email, phone and website
* Notes to Editors – additional information, case study hyperlinks, statistics

Press release PR photography:
This element is as important as the editorial you produce and issue to the media. A professionally-taken, appropriately-formatted image to accompany every press release you send is an absolute must. Never forget the image.

Most offline newspaper and magazines will require jpeg format images at a resolution of 300dpi: this standard will be of the right standard for pretty much any daily newspaper and glossy magazine in the UK.

Images for online reproduction require different formatting, of course, and the best option is to hire a professional photographer – preferably an experienced PR press photographer – who will be able to produce relevant online and offline-ready images for you to submit to the appropriate media.

You may argue that the additional cost involved with hiring a professional photographer is prohibitive, but in reality if you’re serious about gaining publication and delivering a polished press release, images must always be part of the package delivered to the media. Ignore this at your peril.

Timeframe: 0-3 hours
Here’s a rough guide on how to produce a winning press release in a three hour timeline. You should aim for the following:

* First 30 minutes: establish angle, write leading paragraph, form key quotes – press release template here with first paragraph completed only no headline
* 30 minutes-1 hour: Write paragraphs 2-6, including bulk of News details – press release temple here with first six paragraphs completed no headline
*1-2 hours: Write paragraphs 7-10, including concluding quotation – press release template here with 10 paragraphs completed no headline
* 2-2.5 hours: Formulate image caption and Notes to Editors sections – press release template here with paragraphs and Image Cap & Notes completed no headline
* Final 30 minutes: Proof-read the entire press release. Then do it again.

Ready to submit:
You’re nearly there. The final points are important to remember as you tidy up and finish up. Before you collate your media list and email the press release:

1. Make sure you have not repeated any information, quotations, statistics.
2. Check the press release by reading it out loud. This is vitally important.
3. Finally, write the one-line Headline. Always do this last of all. It flows easily.

And finally:
Relax. Take notes about your business, products, service and people. Do not worry if the editorial doesn’t flow at first. Stay with it. Re-draft until you are happy with the tone, layout and newsworthiness of the press releases you produce.

Ultimately, you’ll make it easier for myself and other Editors to carry on with other editorial tasks.

The advances of editorial information, the places it can be accessed, the falling costs of reading that editorial, and the simple fact that many readerships are migrating to the Web for convenience in an on-demand environment – all of these things and more are covered eloquently by Neil Thackray is his blog which will give many magazine directors much to think about.

As a B2B specialist, Thackray highlights the inherent dangers of offline magazine advertising teams attempting to deliver media sales to an online audience. It rarely works – how could it? – but this doesn’t prevent cash-strapped magazines trying to push more and more potential revenue streams onto traditional sales people amid falling subscription figures over the last 18 months. Not that this is confined to B2B publishing, of course, but the damage has been seen very clearly here.

I have seen falling paginations in the trade magazines in the sectors I edit for over the last year – including significant reductions by Haymarket on flagship titles. When the big boys are suffering, you know everybody else is too.

Thackray’s suggestions are excellent – including one of the most obvious, but overlooked points – to hire a Head of Digital Sales and start taking the online market seriously. I can vouch for this strategy, having seen magazine sales staff struggle to bring in offline advertisers. They don’t get it. The advertisers don’t get it. The benefits aren’t clear enough.

And whilst the entire publishing industry continues to reel from seemingly-daily newsroom cuts and editorial redundancies, the over-riding attitude of risk-aversion prevails. The true winners will get online and deliver content streams and added-value to advertisers. The true winners will realise that traditional B2B publishing business models will not work long-term.

The true winners will also nurture, encourage and value their editorial staff. When more evidence of this is in place, and this is combined with contemporary digital sales strategies which incorporate valuable editorial, the B2B market may succeed.

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.

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.