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Have new social media made ‘traditional’ media obsolete?


A public relations person recently asked “Haven’t new media like Facebook and Twitter made traditional media obsolete?”

In a word: No!

New media provide additional channels for getting messages out, but they don’t make older media obsolete. Radio didn’t make newspapers obsolete, television didn’t make radio obsolete, the Internet didn’t make TV obsolete, and text messaging didn’t make the Internet obsolete.

The task is of public relations is to reach people through the media they use. In an increasingly diverse and fragmented world, that means using as many different channels of communication as possible.

At SOURCES, we certainly believe that new technology and new media are valuable additions to the public relations toolbox. SOURCES itself makes full use of new media channels such as RSS, Facebook and other social marketing tools to disseminate information. We are leaders in search engine optimization strategies and have successfully made one of the top news and journalism sites on the Internet.

However, we strongly believe that ‘traditional’ media such as television, radio, newspapers, trade and consumer magazines, ethnic media, etc. remain extremely important. For example, the most recent NADBank readership survey (March 2009) shows that in major centres such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, three-quarters of over-18s read a daily newspaper, with more than ten million readers in the top 10 markets alone. Millions of Canadians watch television news. Circulation of Canadian trade and consumer magazines continues to grow, with some 665 million copies distributed in 2007. There are 2,000 community newspapers in Canada, and more than 500 ethnic publications published in languages other than English or French.

We believe that it would be a mistake for any forward-looking organization to pursue a public relations strategy that ignores ‘traditional’ media. Coverage in print or broadcast media has the potential to reach huge audiences, and at the same time can also reach niche audiences that new media do not reach. For example, a PR strategy relying on Facebook and Twitter would have limited success in reaching over-40 homeowners, or immigrants whose first language is not English, whereas there are many print publications, and some radio and television programs, which do reach those audiences effectively.

At SOURCES, we believe that positive media coverage is the single most credible form of publicity there is. Online social marketing tools, though valuable, are limited because they may be seen as self-promotion, akin to paid advertising. Media coverage is credible because it comes from an independent media source reporting on what you know and what you have done.

SOURCES’ primary function therefore continues to be helping organizations to get media coverage. More than 4,000 journalists a day use to find experts and media spokespersons. Organizations whose media profiles appear in SOURCES consistently rank high in Google searches on their key issues and areas of expertise. News releases sent out through SOURCES are viewed by media across Canada and beyond.