The incredible shrinking Brussels press corps and the ever expanding internet

An article aimed at European Communications professionals by Mark Dober

As David Rennie of the Economist recently wrote "The European Union press pack is in free fall. In 2005, the year I arrived in Brussels, there were more than 1,300 reporters with press badges issued by the European Commission. Back then, I remember being told that in numbers the Brussels press corps was bigger than the Washington press pack, which I had just left. In 2010, just 752 journalists hold EU accreditation. Almost 200 have left in the last year."

Even without the financial crisis which devastated media advertising revenues, the problem (and the opportunity) here is the internet. News has become a commodity and most consume it for free.

Events at two of the largest rival UK newspapers are indicative of the struggle for readership, advertising and survival provoked by the internet. James Harding, the editor of The Times, has admitted that the long term future of the newspaper is under threat while it makes "unsustainable" losses and that costs need to be cut to free up funds for digital investment to cope with "galloping technological change". The Times has begun charging online users in the biggest move yet by a publisher into pay-wall news.  According to its rival The Guardian, since then The Times has lost 90% of its online users which is the standard experience when a site moves to a paid-access model instead of free access. Meanwhile reports often record-breaking figures for its website of over 37 million unique users per month, but remains in desperate financial straits despite wide-scale redundancies and a move to cheaper premises.  The only winner in this race seems to be Google and in particular the Google News Service which provides ample free news to consumers, while it profits from online advertising.

So what does this all mean for journalists? The first change we noticed was how their deadlines changed i.e. it is simply as soon as they can get online to file a story rather than the old print deadlines of 6 o’clock for the following day’s press. Although it initially seemed like a time-saving machine for research and filing stories, the internet has actually caused most journalists to work longer hours. Alongside filing regular broadcast or print stories, journalists are often pressured to write blogs, file online stories and tweet in the fight for eyeballs.

The 5 biggest changes for journalists according to the 2009 European Digital Journalism Survey are that:

  1. Exclusives have become more important
  2. Journalists are expected to produce more content
  3. Journalists use things like blogs to source stories
  4. Journalists now focus more on analysis rather than news
  5. Journalists have less time to research stories in person

So how has all this changed how we communicate with journalists? Plenty.  Dober Partners can train you how to contact journalists online and in the real world without turning them off your story.

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