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The Ghost of PR Christmas Past
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Something funny happened to your local newspaper on the way to its last shareholders meeting — no one showed up. If you have been a part of this great world of flackdom for any amount of time, you have noticed that some of your favorite reporters and writers have taken their parachutes and gone skydiving. Some have gone the way of freelancing, blogging, consulting, and even PR. And why? Because it seems this Internet thingy has used the newspaper to line its birdcage.

According to a recent story in Paper Cuts, more than 3,775 newspaper jobs were cut in 2011 — 30% higher than 2010. What's even more harrowing, since this blog has started monitoring these cutbacks in 2007, more than 40,000 jobs have been eliminated or "restructured."

This puts the bulk of us in a beaten-down SUV climbing up a slippery slope. Trying to do this job without contacts we trust is like trying to become famous without a reality show (or a raunchy, clandestine video done in classy night vision). It's close to impossible. So, off we go, to update our databases in 2012 and ensure we have the latest reporter with whom we will have to start all over and get to know because our clients deserve their attention.

And if you think we are reaching some plateau, may I present Exhibit A? The New York Times is selling off 16 regional papers. Not that many people from the old, grey lady have called me back recently, but this is never a good thing. The problem with newspapers is that they no longer exist to offer the news — they exist for advertising forums. Don't agree? Ask that curmudgeon chick I just mentioned:

From 2008 to 2009, advertising revenue at the Regional Media Group fell 30.2 percent, to $193 million," reported the Times. "Ad revenue fell another 8.2 percent in 2010 to $177 million, according to the company's 2010 annual report.

In 2012, light a candle and remember this ghost of PR Christmas Past. It served us well, but the ghost of PR Christmas Present and Future is here: online media. Nevertheless, that familiar, husky scent of the past still haunts those of us who know what it takes to be successful in this gig. There's just more people to get to know now...if only we could find some of them out from among their encased Star Wars collection in their mother's garage. Ho Ho Ho.


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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