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State of the media in 2012

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John Klein

John Klein

John Klein

Keeping abreast of consumer media trends is a daunting task.

This year alone, we’ve seen the emergence of Netflix as an originator of television programming, Pinterest as the new social-media channel and the apparent disappearance of younger television viewers. 

The rate of change continues to increase, as do the risks of adoption – jumping on the right horse too soon, jumping on the wrong horse or not jumping at all.

Adding to the confusion are the limited resources available to nonprofits to review, to invest and to manage their communication efforts. 

In order to grow and prosper, nonprofits require an effective mix of message and media to support their missions.

Luckily, some sources shine a bright light on the subject. 

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (www.stateofthemedia.org) publishes a comprehensive annual review of the state of the media, reviewing the emerging trends of where news and content is disseminated, on both traditional and digital platforms.

I have selected a few highlights from this report that have the most relevance to nonprofit communication programs and discuss how these trends can be applied. Social media: Facebook continues to lead – by a lot

In a report from comScore, a leading Internet traffic-measuring source, Facebook users spend an average of 423 minutes a month on the site – more than Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace and Google Plus combined. 

Part of this high ranking is due in part to Facebook’s enhanced user interface and increased reporting capabilities, both of which contribute to more users spending more time consuming more content. 

Application:    Social-media practitioners know all too well how time consuming it is to create effective campaigns.  And while digital applications like Posterous and bit.ly assist in compiling and broadcasting posts, knowing that Facebook will most likely be your primary medium can help focus your creative and narrative efforts.

Newspapers: Deceptively strong

The evolution of the newspaper industry is well known: Decreases in traditional readership and increases in digital content. 

What is not well known is the dynamic between advertising and circulation.

One telling chart in the Pew research depicts the precipitous drop in newspaper advertising revenue over the past 10 years, while circulation revenue (subscriptions and single-sale) has been slightly down but stable during the same period. 

In other words, advertisers have abandoned traditional newspaper formats at a much faster rate than readers.

The result is a broad-reach media vehicle with diminished ad clutter, read by comparatively older readers who often fit the profile of nonprofit donors and patrons. 

Application: There are a handful of forward-thinking publications that are offering lower price frequency advertising programs, which afford nonprofits reduced costs, scheduling flexibility and reach potential – all to attract advertisers back to the medium. 

A quick call to the newspaper sales department can provide additional opportunities.

Television: Growing in the morning

Many of you may have witnessed the ratings gimmicks in network morning news (Katie vs. Oprah vs. Sarah). 

That audience is critical because of its size and demographics (women, professionals). 

Those trends also have been exploited at the local level, where morning news time slots have been expanded and audiences have grown consistently over the past few years. 

In fact, you may have seen your favorite station start its morning news as early as 4:30 a.m. Why? There is an available audience, and competition is keen. 

Application: Many television stations form partnerships with local nonprofits, to which they donate air time in lieu of a financial contribution. 

Developing the right relationship and offering a friendly suggestion to the station to run your PSA’s in morning news allows nonprofits the advantage of the broad reach of TV advertising and targeting key potential constituents.

Radio: Keeps on going

Players (eight-track, cassette, CD) and satellite offerings were supposed to sound the death knell for terrestrial radio, and yet the industry continues to evolve and maintain its listenership. 

While some would argue radio formats have become bland, the industry systematically is catering to a host of niche audiences, providing free entertainment and information.   One niche format that has grown during the past seven years is NPR, which has seen double-digit percentage growth and attracts almost 27 million listeners each week, many of whom are well educated, affluent and civic-minded. 

Application: One of the best advertising values in the local market is the public radio sponsorship announcement, where simple messages with impact can reach a valuable audience for a nonprofit at a fraction of the cost of other local media.

Many nonprofits are embracing the need for awareness, positioning and promotion of their missions.  Their needs are as great as their budgets are strained. But for those that embrace the changes in consumer behavior and employ tactics that have a discernible impact, these tips can help make a difference.


John Klein is president of Trilithon Partners, a marketing consulting agency based in Cary, N.C.

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