The Richmond media market: The shrinkage has stopped

I am one of the many (about 250 people) very much looking forward to Tuesday’s meeting of the Richmond Social Media Club where some of Richmond’s journalists will discuss and debate how social media has changed how they do their jobs.

Instead of addressing that directly now, I find myself thinking about how Richmond as a media market has changed in such a short period of time.  The drivers in that change have been economics and technology.

The economics has forced the stalwarts of the market, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the network-affiliate television stations to undergo a period of change unique in their histories. 

The T-D, in order to survive has been forced to shred itself of its “experience” and make do with a smaller, and in most cases younger staff.   Add to that the inevitable shrinking of the actual paper itself and you have a smaller product, manned by a smaller staff, with less institutional knowledge.

On the TV side, the latest round of “ownership roulette” is in the process of doing much the same to the area’s television newsrooms.

In recent years, we have told our local clients who want news coverage that Richmond is the “incredible shrinking media market,” and for a while that was true.

However, where economics and technology (or the slowness to embrace it) have robbed the local media giants, they have created opportunity for others to make their mark.

Just one look at the local news aggregator, Richmond Good Life, will show you there are countless opportunities in local media. 

Where Inside Business once resided, there is the now growing online business option Richmond BizSense.  Our friend (although sometimes we find ourselves on opposite sides of some issues) Jason Roop at Style Weekly is using the publication’s website to break news in between weekly print issues.  As is Richmond Magazine, which has debuted blogs in recent months. Online publication RVA Magazine is a trendsetter.  The specialty publications like Boomer Life are making their mark.

This coupled with the aggressive growth of neighborhood and topical blogs like Trevor Dickerson’s Downtown Short Pump (I live there) or John Murden’s efforts downtown, our friend John Sarvay’s Buttermilk and Molasses, and of course Jeff Kelley’s satirical Tobacco Avenue, and I think the shrinkage has finally stopped. 

My guess is that other cities are seeing the same.  As a PR pro, in order to be “successful,” we must first re-think how we think of media in order to reorient our clients.

The “big story in the paper” is frankly not the holy grail that it once was.  For some businesses, it may be more important to get a big feature in a neighborhood blog.

I challenge you to take a good look at Richmond Good Life and all the media Richmond has to offer.  The Richmond media scene is changing and growing, it is time for all of us to embrace it because it will never be as it was again.

Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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