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The New Definition of “Top-Tier” Media

3 Min Read
Ashley Waters
Director, Media Relations | New York, NY
  • Blog
  • Public Relations

The New Definition of “Top-Tier” Media

Ashley Waters
Director, Media Relations | New York, NY

One of the first questions I ask clients when we kick-off a new program is “What is your dream publication?”

Most often, the answers are what you would anticipate: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, etc. While those outlets are undeniably important business press, the standing definition of top-tier media has shifted, particularly over this last year. By taking a step back and understanding exactly what your client’s goals are, you can help make recommendations and determine which outlet would truly be the most impactful.

Your Audience is Your Biggest Factor

One area to consider is the audience they are trying to reach.

If they are a private company looking to get in front of investors for a funding round, as opposed to a public company looking to increase their customer base –  those are wildly different audiences. Investment publications range from MarketWatch to CNBC, while a customer audience is dependent on their product or service. If they are trying to reach a CFO, a CTO, a CIO or a CMO consider widely respected trade outlets with a large audience as an alternative to traditional business press.

While the overall readership numbers may be lower for a trade, you are likely targeting a more specific audience. Thus, there’s a higher percentage of readers that your story and message may be relevant for.

“While the overall readership numbers may be lower for a trade, you are likely targeting a more specific audience. Thus, there’s a higher percentage of readers that your story and message may be relevant for.”

PR and earned media strategies

Talent Has Moved Across the Media Landscape

News organizations were not immune to COVID-driven lay-offs. Many were forced to shrink their newsrooms, meaning a significant number of fantastic reporters became available. We’re now seeing hiring pick back up, and some outlets are snatching up that talent. Pay attention to the outlets are making hires and bringing in new reporters to cover new beats. For example, Protocol recently hired Ben Pimentel from Business Insider, Tomio Geron from WSJ and Anna Kramer from the SF Chronical. Business Insider brought on new reporters to cover areas like media, entrepreneurship, investigations, tech features, DEI and wealth, to name a few.

Market Trends & External Factors Impact Media Coverage

In a year where major headlines constantly dominated news cycles – COVID, Black Lives Matter, the election – consumers also changed how they were receiving their news.

Newsletters have become a more popular source for readers, as they can select exactly which topics, outlets and even reporters they want to hear from. In fact, many reporters left their traditional outlets to start newsletters, including Casey Newton, The Verge’s longtime Silicon Valley editor, who created one on SubStack. Additionally, Vox energy and climate change reporter David Roberts left to start a newsletter called Volts, and Bloomberg News tech reporter Eric Newcomer developed Newcomer.

The Big Debate: To Paywall, or Not to Paywall?

Finally, subscriptions and paywalls have changed the definition of top-tier media as well. Outlets that have had subscriptions for years like NYT and Washington Post saw significant growth this year, which may be why many new outlets joined in and started moving stories behind a paywall, like Fortune, Forbes and MarketWatch. The model is changing. This may mean your client would rather have a feature story in an outlet where it’s not behind a paywall, to guarantee more people can view it.

“It’s not one-size-fits-all, and the first outlet that comes to mind, ultimately may not be the best outlet for their business.”

All of these changes should be taken into consideration when you work with a client to determine what a top-tier outlet looks like for them, based on their messaging, audience and needs. It’s not one-size-fits-all, and the first outlet that comes to mind, ultimately may not be the best outlet for their business. Consider the likelihood of a mention versus a feature, quality over quantity, which outlets have high syndication numbers and more. Be the expert, get creative, and ask the right questions to understand how to deliver the most value to your clients, and consider what top tier press may look like for them specifically.

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