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Blogs Are the New Trade Press

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The world of public relations has changed dramatically over the past five to 10 years – or, at least it should have.

One of the biggest changes to hit PR has been the advent of news search engines, which aggregate headlines from thousands of news sources – including the major press release distribution services. But, you've probably already written a memo to your public relations department or PR agency about this phenomenon.

These days, a large part of PR has to do with news search optimization, along with more traditional avenues like media outreach. But which media should you reach out to, and which media are most likely to help you rank in news searches?

You may need to write another memo to your director of media relations – if he or she is under the mistaken impression that Google News and Yahoo News are merely mixing press releases with news stories from the same old business and trade publications that dominated your industry back in the 1990s.

Now, it's likely that your media relations director already knows that BusinessWeek has just announced the layoff of a dozen employees from the magazine's business and editorial departments. And every director of media relations on the planet already knows that the editors and reporters at The Wall Street Journal are feeling pretty anxious about what will happen now that more than a century of independent family ownership has reached its end.

That's last week's news – so you don't need to write a memo to him or her about that. But, there's another significant trend that some media relations veterans may not be ready to acknowledge: In many industries, the trade press has imploded.

For example, I worked for Ziff-Davis from 1988 to 1999, as the director of marketing for PC/Computing and then as the director of corporate communications. And many of the trade publications that I worked or competed with in that era are gone baby gone:

  • Family PC died in July 2001.
  • The Industry Standard went into bankruptcy in August 2001.
  • Interactive Week merged with eWeek in November 2001.
  • PC/Computing (later Ziff-Davis Smart Business) folded in May 2002.
  • Yahoo Internet Life was shuttered in July 2002.
  • Upside closed in October 2002.
  • Forbes ASAP suspended publication in October 2002.
  • CMO Magazine ceased publication as of the January 2006 issue.
  • InfoWorld published its final print edition in April 2007.
  • Business 2.0 shut down with its October 2007 issue.
    • And most of the trade magazines that are still being published are much slimmer than they were a decade ago – and have skeletal editorial staffs and anorexic travel budgets.

      So, what should your media relations director do? Should he or she increase the number of optimized press releases that your company distributes, while cutting the number of media relations positions in your public relations department or PR agency?

      That's not what I would recommend.

      Over the weekend, I conducted several searches on Google News and Yahoo News for search industry terms like "SES Chicago" and "PubCon." And I found more than 150 stories from the past month.

      Despite search being one of the fastest growing areas in the technology industry, not one of these stories about SES Chicago or PubCon was written by an editor or reporter for eWeek or InformationWeek. And despite search marketing being one of the hottest sectors in the advertising industry, not one of these stories was written by an editor or reporter for Advertising Age or AdWeek.

      And while The New York Times featured, "Google Gets Ready to Rumble with Microsoft," and The Boston Globe featured, "Old media seek to know Google, not just fear it," last Sunday, neither newspaper had a reporter covering SES Chicago or PubCon. And it goes without saying that neither The Wall Street Journal nor BusinessWeek were covering SES Chicago or PubCon, either.

      So, who wrote the stories that I found in Google News and Yahoo News?

      Well, there was one story by Paul McNamara in NetworkWorld, "Is Google's Matt Cutts a PubCon party pooper?" And there was a column by Sara Holoubek in DM News, "Has search ever saved a life?"

      That's right. Only 1 percent of more than 150 stories were written by the traditional trade press.

      But almost 60 percent of the coverage of SES Chicago and PubCon was written by editors, reporters, bloggers and correspondents for Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, WebProNews, Marketing Pilgrim, Search Engine Roundtable and Search Newz. And another 28 percent was written by individuals for other online publications or group blogs.

      That's right. Online publications and group blogs generated close to 88 percent of the coverage of SES Chicago and PubCon. (The remaining 11 percent was – you guessed it – press releases.)

      And the new trade press isn't chopped liver.

      According to Compete, 382,749 people visited Search Engine Watch in November 2007; 342,970 visited Search Engine Land; 278,014 visited WebProNews; 139,914 visited Marketing Pilgrim; 77,085 visited Search Engine Roundtable; and 32,398 visited Search Newz.

      This puts them in the same ballpark as the circulation of print publications: 440,000 for InformationWeek; 400,100 for eWeek; 58,979 for Advertising Age; and 23,152 for AdWeek.

      More to the point, the number of visitors to the online publications and group blogs covering the search industry is in the same ballpark as the number of visitors to the websites of trade publications in the technology or advertising industries.

      According to Compete, 424,773 people visited InformationWeek.com in November 2007; 331,060 visited eWeek.com; 213,900 visited AdAge.com; and 101,140 visited AdWeek.com.

      So, your director of media relations shouldn't cut any media relations positions. Instead, he or she should refocus at least one media relations specialist on the online publications and group blogs that may be dominating the news search engine results in your industry.

      But wait! There's more!

      The editors, reporters, bloggers and correspondents for the new trade press are more likely to add links in their stories than the editors or reporters for the old trade press. If you look at the top referrers in your web analytics software, don't be surprised to see that a disproportionate percentage of your web traffic came from online publications and group blogs.

      For one of our B2B clients, we've seen Search Engine Guide generate more web traffic than InfoWorld.com. For one of our B2C clients, we've seen Engadget generate more web traffic than PCWorld.com.

      In many other industries, online publications and group blogs have become the de facto trade press. Just conduct a couple of searches on Google News and Yahoo News for relevant search terms in your industry and you'll quickly discover who they are.

      Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, a search engine optimization and public relations firm. He is also the news search, blog search and PR correspondent for the Search Engine Watch Blog.

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