Applying Supply-and-demand Economic Theory ...


The relationship between journalists and PR is never going to be a perfect fit.

Each party has a different agenda.

But I do think it’s possible to diffuse what is too often considered a contentious relationship between PR and journalists. Specifically, framing the issue by supply-and-demand economic theory would go a long way to solving the issue.

With this in mind, I’ve plotted journalistic demand against the five core types of content that PR depends on to drive media coverage:

  • Public domain news
  • Non-public domain news
  • Industry features
  • Company features
  • Bylined articles


In going through this exercise, the disconnect in the supply-and-demand equations lands squarely on public domain news. News announcements constitute the greatest percent of PR supply even though there’s little demand from journalists.

Taking this a step further, we asked a number of journalists a simple question, “What word or words do you associate with the news release?”

The answers weren’t pretty.


While not exactly a statistically sound study, I think it’s fair to extrapolate that journalists dislike the news release and rarely find value in the content. Yet, last year — as best we can piece together the numbers — companies distributed around 762,000 news releases.

Putting this stat in context, figure on average 30 hours goes into the creation of a news release with time valued at $200 per hour. This means that companies are spending $4,572,000,000 in a content type for which there’s little demand.

This is crazy.

Worse, it causes much of the rancor in the journalist/PR relationship. Companies, frustrated by the lack of ROI from announcements, send PR to pummel journalists into submission to write about announcements they don’t care about.

To better align PR-generated content with journalistic demand, we need to put more energy and investment in creating content that’s not in the public domain.


This is what journalists value.

I recognize it’s not easy.

Companies have been blasting out news releases for years (decades?), relishing coverage reports often filled by syndication in third-tier targets. Changing muscle memory is a challenge in itself.

More daunting, the type of storytelling that depends on content not in the public domain takes greater expertise. You need to think like a journalist, pulling together a mix of commentary, anecdotes, facts, research and numbers that allow for a fresh narrative. We’ve come to call this one-off storytelling.

Equally important, it requires a different mindset from companies, valuing quality — meaningful coverage — over the make-a-thud clip books.

When supply perfectly meets demand in the economics world, they call it equilibrium.

It’s not realistic to think we’re going to find equilibrium in the relationships between PR and journalists. But a large part of the friction would go away if PR shifted to an emphasis on content not in the public domain.

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