Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ethical Dead End of Print First Strategy

PR manager of a popular daily newspaper in Russia has been recently complaining to me. She thinks we should be crediting the newspaper's work more often in our newswire and on our news website. Well, we do credit local media if we use part of a third-party story that:

a) we think is exclusive and important to our readers;

b1) we can't confirm independently in reasonable time;
b2) the newsmaker is referring us back to because of exclusivity.

The newspaper in question has apparently got a print first strategy, which is still not uncommon in Russia. Scoops appear on the newspaper's website late into the night Moscow time when the print issue is in the works.

Come morning, we would sometimes mention the newspaper's stories in our daily press review (The Russian version is more detailed than, say, in English, where the sources are grouped). During daytime we work with our sources and provide original reporting. Sometimes the stories would coincide with the newspaper's late-night scoops. However, as I already mentioned, there are only exceptional cases when we would mention local media as a source.

So in theory, the newspaper may enjoy a beat of up to 12 hours (sometimes even more) over other media, including us. In practice it doesn't, according to the PR manager. The main reason, as it occurred, is because the credits are part of the KPI used there. I see a clear ethical issue here. Publishing houses should certainly care less about credits in other local media and focus more on engaging their readership.

Looking from a newsmaker's perspective, a print-first strategy is also an ethical issue. Such strategy introduces unnecessary delays of several hours before any story goes public. On the positive side, however, a second publicity cycle may follow if the news agencies decide that the story is important.

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