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Print media use study—computers, the Internet, and online services

In an effort to determine the places print editors receive their information, Steven Ross and Don Middleberg conducted surveys of print media in 1994, 1995, and 1996. The surveys were sent to 2,000 managing or business editors from daily newspapers and independently staffed Sunday newspapers, as well as magazine editors. Six hundred thirty-six responses were returned before the survey’s November 15 deadline.

Questions pertained to the subjects’ use of computers, the Internet, and online services. Ross and Middleberg analyzed the data and found usage patterns have dramatically changed in the course of the last three years. This year’s survey "expanded upon the previous research. With three complete survey samples, we can now, for the first time, offer some reliable data on trends as well" 7. Not surprisingly, their findings indicate journalists’ use of computers and the Internet are rising. They found that "only 13% of the respondents to this year's survey either said they had no access, or did not answer the question at all. That compares to 37% of the comparable sample in the 1995 survey just 13 months earlier" 8. These findings also indicate that the content on the Internet, with more and more people able to access it, is becoming increasingly important as well.

However, they discovered that the Internet is not the primary way in which they find subjects for their stories. Their study revealed:

For all the hype about online technology changing the way journalists do business, most journalists get story ideas the old fashioned way—by getting a pitch. To put that another way, few journalists are trolling the Internet in a relentless search for stories—unless their beat IS the Internet. In fact, 59% of our sample said their number one source of story ideas was sources and leads. Only 2 percent said the World Wide Web played the leading role. 9
In other words, public relations managers should definitely include telephone calls, press conferences, and other personal contact with the press to ensure their stories are covered.

Even though the Internet was not found to be the source most journalists used to find leads for their stories, the popularity of the World Wide Web had definitely increased from the previous year’s survey results. Ross and Middleberg were interested in discovering which web site components were most useful to the survey participants. Less than half of the respondents answered the question, but of those who did, "photos were the most often cited (by 19%), followed by contact information (17%), and site-wide search engine (14%). Financial information was specifically cited by only 10% of the sample, even though the newspaper sample was weighted toward business editors" 10.

Although information on the Internet can be a useful tool for further information, such as photos and contact information, public relations managers cannot rely on the Internet alone to communicate their message. E-mail, telephones and fax machines are good ways to deliver messages and pitch stories to the press effectively and quickly.

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The Internet—introduction | Using the Internet effectively | Print media use study
Making Web pages better | Technology marketing models | Conclusions
References