Only “Muffin Tops” – PR in the Age of Agenda Setter Publications

Oct 22, 2014 admin

In the past year two technology focused media platforms have emerged as – what Sam Whitmore calls – “agenda setter” publications. Transforming tech journalism and thought leadership, The Information founded by Jessica Lessin and Backchannel started by former Wired and Newsweek reporter, Steven Levy, aim to provide in-depth, meaningful industry analysis and news. Lessin even argues, The Information provides what has been previously lacking – “news that takes a stand supported by facts.”

Both Backchannel and The Information were founded on the premise that tech news has been repetitive, cookie-cutter articles with flashy headlines and little substance. Levy says he does not want the “flavorless stump” of the muffin; he wants “only muffin tops.” He does not want to follow the industry agenda; he wants to set it.

So what agenda are these publications setting?

The media increasingly shapes our interactions and decisions making it a battleground for businesses and influencers to get their voices heard. Medium, which has been revolutionary in its own right as an op-ed driven platform, is for anyone to share their own perspective, but Backchannel hosted by Medium, is where tech voices will truly be heard. Levy explains, “Backchannel will attempt to scan the vast ether of the Medium universe for great tech pieces that deserve more exposure.” Backchannel will also have a team of regular contributors posting “lively and meaningful tales and analysis” for today’s tech audience.

We know that great content gets the attention it’s worthy of, but we need to consider what these innovative publications mean for the PR industry.

Backchannel and The Information will shape tech trends and industry conversations as articles engage readers with unique perspectives, detailed analysis and a strong stance or call to action. But beyond quality content, they also exude exclusivity, which increases curiosity and interest among any audience. Think about the great lengths tech companies go to keep product launches selective and build anticipation. Recent Apple events can only be live streamed on Apple products limiting access for larger audiences. Likewise The Information started as, and continues to be, subscription based, and Levy claims Backchannel sets the bar extremely high for contributed content.

To secure media contributions, PR professionals will need to encourage leadership to write about what they know and what they feel most strongly about. Industry expertise and a provocative position on a timely topic will likely woo these discerning editors.

To be a true thought leader in these publications, contributors must define their agenda and support it with data. Similarly, InkHouse understands that thought leadership extends beyond sharing a point of view. We root our point of view in authority with research and data and it represents our larger strategic objectives. Thought leadership articles pitched to these editors must avoid fluffy language that circumvents a controversial belief, and instead have substance and clear-cut ideas and opinions that tie back to agenda goals.

While Backchannel and The Information aren’t the only publications challenging industry leaders to prove themselves, these publications are making the biggest waves as agenda setters and others are following suit. Just this week, former New York Times Editor Jill Abramson announced she is launching a startup for “killer journalism.” It is in our best interest as media professionals to engage with these new media platforms and track their influence in the industry.

For more on these disruptive changes in tech media, check out my colleagues’ blog posts on Why you should be reading (and writing for) Medium and New in the (Tech) News.

Topics: Media Relations, Public Relations, Thought Leadership

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