How COVID has Changed the Media Landscape


Like many industries, it’s no surprise that media and publishing were hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, especially those that specialize in leisure topics such as travel and hospitality. When the news struck, while so many readers couldn’t tear their eyes away from the headlines, suddenly there was no room for non-COVID news.

With advertisers quickly pulling budgets to avoid sounding “tone deaf,” or due to their own budget contractions, and editorial relevance making a complete 180 pivot, it wasn’t long before we saw journalists and editors filing for unemployment and entire publications holding production until further notice. The New York Times outlines most of these changes in the industry in their piece, “News Media Outlets Have Been Ravaged by the Pandemic.”

Anecdotally, and through conversations with media contacts, we’re seeing a number of organizations shift their editorial focuses. How does one cover restaurants when in-person dining is prohibited? How can one promote destinations when officials are saying “do not travel here?” Publications deeply rooted in the travel and hospitality industries quickly shifted their focus to what can be done within the four walls of home.

Here are some important changes to the media landscape and what it means for PR-professionals in the months ahead:

Smaller Newsrooms

As consumers have shifted the ways in which they consume media with the rise of digital, it’s no secret that a number of outlets, especially print publications such as magazines and newspapers, have been struggling to attract readers for years. Budget cuts due to COVID-19 hit these organizations while they were already down, and we saw swift changes at both national and local levels. We’ve witnessed the closure of Delta Sky magazine, Smarter Travel, and W magazine; significant layoffs at the USA Today, Worth, Tiger Oak Publications (like Colorado Meetings + Events) and even monthly furloughs at The Denver Post.

Fewer Freelance Assignments

On the flip side, for some outlets that have a core editorial staff, we saw a quick constriction of freelance or contracted assignments. During a tumultuous time, publishers and editors are keeping close tabs on the tone, style and overall message of every article, which is easier to do when it’s created by in-house writers. Further, due to the uncertainty of reopening timelines and consumer sentiment, longer-lead assignments are on hold.

Remote Teams

Instead of editorial meetings in a conference room, these are happening on Zoom or Slack. Instead of sending product to an office, samples are going to each writer’s home (and journalists are being MUCH more selective about what they accept). Deskside or coffee pitch meetings with journalists may never look the same again, as even these tactics have transitioned into “virtual desksides,” although the best ones are still those that incorporate an experiential element such as expert-led remote wine tasting or fitness classes.

Media Events

As restrictions around travel, dining-in, and group sizes are likely to continue in some fashion in the months ahead, we know this will dramatically change how we approach traditional media gatherings such as FAM tours, press trips and launch events. However, this also opens up the door of opportunity to get creative with one-off hostings, individualized tastings and more. We were already moving in the direction of smaller, more intimate events for individualized experiences, but this pushes us to evolve even further to showcase our clients.

These changes are only the tip of the iceberg. As COVID-19 has changed our world forever, it’s also shifted how we work with media. Contact BPR to learn more about how we can help your organization navigate this new media landscape.

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