There has been a pronounced debate as to whether traditional media is threatened by internet-based communications, or whether it can stand its ground and endure in a digital world. Public relations practitioners have been challenged by the explosion of the internet and social media sites.
Traditional media continues to reach large audiences for public relations practitioners. Network television stations, like ABC, reach millions of viewers at a time during just one prime-time hour. It is unlikely to ever get that many visitors to a website on a given day, or even week. According to Editor & Publisher magazine, daily newspaper readership, although declining, maintains a circulation of about 55 million during the week and 58 million on Sunday. Consumer magazines total a monthly circulation of almost 300 million copies, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Radio is not going anywhere either, reaching 95 percent of the public every day of the week, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Established media are also filtered by the press and gatekeepers, who help interpret and sort the excessive amount of information we are constantly bombarded with for what is most important. This process involves a lot of fact checking and creates more trustworthy, familiar news, which some internet-based sources may not. In addition, traditional media have more influence with older populations, who are better reached through television and newspapers than websites, blogs and social networks. The opposite may be true for younger populations who have different news and media habits. For this reason, it is important to know how your audience gets their information.
With the popularity of social media sites and blogs and their increasing numbers, it is easy to get caught up in all the hype about them. While they may act as mass distribution channels for news, they are still merely one of many tools public relations practitioners should consider when communicating their messages.