Pop quiz: What are the top two news outlets on the Internet today? Well, according to the web traffic monitoring service Comscore, they are Yahoo! News and Google News. Traditional news sites like CNN.com and various New York Times properties come in a distant third -- and lower.
That's right -- the top two news sites on the Internet don't employ a single reporter. They simply collect stories and press releases from around the Internet and make it easy to scan or search them.
That's a sign of how much the news media is changing. And if you want to raise environmental awareness, advance gay rights, challenge racism, or promote any other good cause, then you've got to adapt to the new rules of the news media.
The old way of using PR to raise environmental awareness or promote some other cause was to make a list of reporters who covered your issue. Then, when you had a hot story, you'd write a press release, send it to the list, and then call them to make sure they received it. But that's not good enough anymore.
Here's why: Newspapers and TV news operations are downsizing. The reporters who are left are younger, less experienced, and spread thinner than in the "good old days." Meanwhile, blogs, e-mail newsletters, online magazines, and other niche publications are multiplying so fast that nobody can keep track of them all.
Put these two trends together, and here's what you get -- not enough big fish and way too many small fish to work with a simple list of reporters. Here are two tools that you can use to promote your cause to thousands of journalists, instead of just a handful:
Press Release Distribution Service. Using these services is a good way to offer your news to thousands of blogs, email newsletters, and small outlets, which can add up to a lot of attention. You paste your press release into a form, and they put your story directly into Google News and Yahoo! News, so it's out there whether any reporter writes about it or not.
There are dozens of these services. Some are free. Some are cheap. And some are expensive. Try two free ones to get the hang of it: www.pr.com or www.prlog.com.
These services all promise to send your press release into newsrooms around the world, and maybe they do. But if you want to see your story in some particular newspaper or magazine, you should still send it directly to a reporter at that newspaper or magazine -- and follow up with a phone call. That's where the next type of service comes in.
Press Release Database Service. These services track which reporters cover what issues at what media outlet and compile the information in a database. You can search for reporters by location, outlets, or topics, and then pull up their phone numbers or send emails right out of the system.
The established services include Bacon's and Vocus, and the upstart MyPRGenie is challenging them on price.
Don't expect miracles here -- layoffs are sweeping through the news industry, and it's hard for these services to get it 100% right. But it would be even harder for you to keep track of those comings and goings yourself.
To sum it up, the news media is going high tech. If you want to raise environmental awareness or promote some other good cause, you've got to go high tech, too. Good luck!