Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Media industry is going to hell in a handbasket - Where is PR industry's handbasket?

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 24, 2007

By Tom Foremski

With all the disruption that is going on in the mainstream media industry, where is the disruption in the mainstream public relations industry? PR companies and corporate communications teams are still going about their business in the same way, and seem to be thriving.

You would think that there would be a corresponding shakeup in both industries. After all, one is dependent on the other. The PR teams work with the journalists to find stories, and help them research whatever information is needed for their articles.

Always Linked

There has always been a close correspondence between the fortunes of both sectors in the past. This could be seen in the dotcom dotbomb fallout.

PR companies suffered large losses when thousands of internet related companies went bust. Job losses in both media and PR were directly related to the fact that there were now far fewer customers.

Fewer dotcom-related firms meant less demand for advertising services and thus less demand for PR services. But now there is a growing disconnect; the mainstream PR sector is booming while the mainstream media sector is fading fast.

The PR boom paradox

Over the past two years the PR sector has been growing quite nicely. The PR firms serving Silicon Valley companies have been been hiring people steadily as the local startup companies seek to raise their visibility.

Every PR firm I know has many vacancies, and there is a very short supply of experienced PR practitioners in the 5 to 8 year experience range. And the demand for PR services continues to grow as new startups come onto the scene and want to raise themselves above the noise level of their competitors.

Yet the number of media outlets continues to shrink. There are fewer mainstream media outlets, there are fewer journalists to pitch stories to; and there are fewer pages to carry stories because there are fewer ads.

Mashup metaphors: The Cows are coming home to roost

What this means is that the realities of this situation have not yet hit home. The realities are these:

-Companies can sell their products and services with a far lower cost of sales these days, because it is easier than ever to reach their customers directly through search engine marketing and blogs.

-This means there that there is far less value offered by mainstream media and mainstream public relations in the product and services sales process. . .

. . .

The above is an extract from a post I wrote 18 months ago, in January 2006. Since that time, the disconnect between the fortunes of mainstream media and public relations industries has grown tremendously.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently cut 100 newsroom jobs, 25 per cent cut. Business 2.0 is on its last legs, yet 18 months ago it had increased ad rates on booming sales.

The IT trade media, all the computer magazines from the East Coast are dead or online only. And private equity vultures are snapping up declining media companies.

Things are getting far worse for media companies yet PR companies continue to boom.

Are PR firms doing more new/social media?

Yes, a little bit more, but most of their time is spent doing traditional PR practices, trying to influence the publication of stories into smaller numbers of media outlets and they can't get enough staff...

Something is seriously out of sync here.

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