Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pitching To Understaffed Media

The past four to five years has yielded a new media landscape.  More syndicated content is being used, such as newspapers relying on the AP feed more than ever.  Local radio shows are being replaced by syndicated shows.  TV talk shows and news programs lean heavily on celebrities, network personalities and Twitter or Facebook sensations.  So how is one to break through not just the increased competition for media coverage, but the shrinking state of opportunities?

A recent study by the Pew Research Center on the state of American journalism revealed the following:

<Sports, weather, and traffic now account for 40% of the content of local TV news programs.  Throw in a few crime stories and local politics, what’s left for an author?
<Cable news’ coverage of live events is down 30% from five years ago, in part because they are cutting costs. However, interview segments, which are cheaper to produce, rose 31%, so there may be more opportunity there.
<Newsroom employment at newspapers fell 30% from its peak of 2,000 and is at its lowest level in 35 years.  This means short-handed staff is filling a decreased number of pages with whatever is quick, cheap, and easy.

The way to appeal to the news media is:
<    * Localize your story when possible
<    * Have a truly timely and news-worthy hook
<    Present a story that is easy to cover, with well-packaged materials such as written content, videos, or visuals
<     * Let them know you have a large platform, such as a big number of Twitter followers or YouTube viewers – this will move them to cover you because they hope your social media fans will follow them
<      * Say something new or something old in a new way
<       * Don’t make the media have to think, do research, or download 50 things – make your pitch short, simple and catchy

The good news about the news media is there is a growing opportunity for coverage.  If you can’t get onto CNN, cnn.com is possible.  If you can’t travel, you can do interviews by phone or from a nearby TV studio.  If you can’t get the media to cover you, go directly to the public via Twitter, Facebook, blogging and YouTube. 

If you truly have an important story, it’ll get discovered. 

Interview With Paul Vachon -- Freelance Writer, Editor and Ghostwriter

1.      What type of books do you write? Of the four books I've written so far, three (including my upcoming title) are on local history of the Detroit area, while one has been a travel guidebook to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. At the same time, I've also written articles on a freelance basis on topics as diverse as business, green living, religion and health.  My work has appeared in several national publications.

2.      What is your newest book about? My upcoming book, Legendary Locals of Detroit, is a collection of profiles on individuals and groups who have had (or are having) significant impact on the south east Michigan community, usually--but not always--for the better.  But despite the overall local focus of the book, many of the subjects' influence extends to the national stage.  Examples include Rosa Parks, Jimmy Hoffa, Henry Ford and Minoru Yamasaki, the noted architect who designed the original twin towers of the World Trade Center.

3.      What inspired you to write it? Previously I had written on local history from a more traditional angle, and when my editor suggested I tackle a project which places people, rather than events and places, at its center, I found the idea intriguing.

4.      What is the writing process like for you?  Since I write non-fiction, I place a heavy emphasis on organization and through research before my fingers actually hit the keys.  Once I get what I want to say very clear in my head and I actually begin to write, the words tend to flow rather easily.  While I do, of course revise and polish my work afterwards, I often reconstruct sentences right after I write them.

5.      What did you do before you became an author? I worked in the retail industry for twenty years.  Most of my career was spent selling men's suits and shoes, but I also had stints moving furniture, rugs and carpeting.

6.      How does it feel to be a published author?  It feels wonderful, but at the same time humbling, which perhaps is a bit of a paradox.

7.      Any advice for struggling writers?  Never hesitate to ask for help from seasoned writers.  Almost all will share their expertise as a matter of professional courtesy, and most remain quite aware of how hard it was for them at first. But at the same time be careful not to abuse their generosity.  Always respect their time and thank them profusely!

8.      Where do you see book publishing heading? The emerging digital technologies will become even more ubiquitous, but I honestly think there are limits as to how impactful on publishing technology will ultimately become.  The convenience and portability of print are difficult to beat. A few years ago a friend (not a writer) repeated a claim she'd read that by 2020 a full ninety percent of everything we read will be digital. I didn't believe it then and still don't today.     

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013 

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