Want to Disrupt the News? Focus on Quality and Context


“Disruption” is a thrilling word at our company. Through daily conversations with our clients and the constant digestion of news, we see that traditional industries are being challenged and changed by new companies with aggressive, fresh ideas (disruptors, if you will).

Airbnb disrupts the hospitality industry with a home sharing business model. Uber disrupts the transportation industry with a concierge-style taxi service. Aereo disrupts the broadcasting industry with a new way of streaming TV shows on devices like tablets and phones.

But what about the news industry?

We’re seeing that it’s hardly immune, and that’s exciting to us.  Adrienne LaFrance at Quartz recently wrote a great article digging into why venture capitalists are investing in the news – including Business Insider ($12 million), BuzzFeed ($46 million) and Vox Media (a staggering $80 million).  The answer lies in the common link between these outlets: a focus on high-quality articles that cut through the clutter of weak content that’s churned out simply with the hopes of generating ad revenue.

As LaFrance explains, “The publishers that have successfully raised millions in venture capital say they notice something else encouraging about how conversations with investors have changed in recent years—a trend toward valuing high-quality work.”

Vox, in particular, has proclaimed a focus on in-depth journalism that helps its audience not just digest the news, but comprehend its value.  In its introductory “Nine questions about Vox,” it says, “The media is excellent at reporting the news and pretty good at adding commentary atop the news. What’s lacking is an organization genuinely dedicated to explaining the news. That is to say, our end goal isn’t telling you what just happened, or how we feel about what just happened, it’s making sure you understand what just happened.”

Ultimately, these media disruptors want to create meaningful, empathetic content that resonates with its audience and, as a result, earns mass exposure through Facebook shares and tweets.  As Tom Risen wrote in U.S. News & World Report, “That ‘race to the top’ to produce quality content will spur readers to share content on social media, which is increasingly being recognized as a metric for success instead of online page view.”

With a growing number of former journalists on our staff and a burgeoning Content & Publishing Practice, we’re excited by these innovative concepts in journalism that embrace reporting value and depth. It’s a refreshing change from the “quantity over quality” approach that so often strays from the fundamental values of the profession.

It’s also important for us as PR professionals to acknowledge and closely follow how the media industry is evolving, and with it, the needs of reporters. Emerging media outlets are hungry for data, seasoned sources and a dialogue that helps them easily translate complex issues into understandable content for readers. It’s our job to make sure that we evolve in this direction, too, and continue to work with clients to give journalists the content they need to continually innovate the media.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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