The second biggest sports news story of the long Thanksgiving weekend was certainly Kobe Bryant’s announcement he would retire at the end of the current NBA season.
(The first biggest story, obviously, was the Bears beating the Packers on the same night Green Bay celebrated the retirement of Brett Favre’s number. Go Bears)
What’s notable about Bryant’s announcement – outside of the fact that it came seemingly out of the blue with little preamble or media speculation – is that he did so on The Players’ Tribune. That site was launched about a year ago by baseball star Derek Jeter as a way for athletes to essentially bypass the media and take their stories directly to fans and speak with their own voices instead of one that’s filtered by the press.
Over the last 15 years we’ve seen an evolution in how the press has been disrupted through self-publishing. We went from everyone, including brands and companies, having their own blogs to a system where more and more entities are using what might be termed “collectives.” So you have sports figures using The Players’ Tribune while others use Medium, including a back-and-forth last month between Amazon and The New York Times, instead of what we would traditionally refer to as an “on-domain” blog.
If heavy-hitters like Bryant, Amazon and others are bypassing the press, what’s next for the press? It means they need to rethink their content strategy just like consumer and other brands started doing a dozen years ago.
I had a conversation with a colleague six years ago about this very topic. How do you maintain an active and interesting corporate blog that provides value to readers while not completely turning the press, which still plays an active role in reaching segments of the audience, against you? It’s a fine line to walk that involves careful evaluation of the stories that are being told. That takes coordination between all teams, including PR, marketing, social media and everyone else who may have skin in the game.
The traditional media will have to continue evolving to meet the new challenges being put in front of them. Perhaps “explainer journalism” will rise to even greater prominence than it has now. Perhaps owned channels are where we will turn for news while traditional media provide context and background, though that’s going to be difficult in the wake of such drastic cutbacks in recent years.
For PR practitioners and content marketing specialists this all means we’ll have to keep redefining what we mean when we say “media.” And it’s going to keep impacting how we do our media monitoring. We’ll have to not only counsel our clients on where and when is the best time and place for them to respond to an issue, make a statement or otherwise take their message to the public. Each outlet has its own purpose and audience. And, as the NYT/Amazon dust-up showed us, we’ll have to be just as mindful in monitoring for the responses to our statements and responses since many of these new sources still aren’t tracked either by search engines or monitoring services.
The media world continues to evolve at a breakneck pace. Let us know if you’d like our help in keeping up.