The PR industry provides a large and, apparently, growing share of media content:
Macnamara said the data showed 30-80 per cent of media content was sourced from, or significantly influenced by, PR practitioners, depending on the outlet, with estimates of 40-75 per cent common.
The definition of PR material included all information released to the media by outlets such as PR companies, corporations, statutory bodies, government departments and ministerial press secretaries. Quality newspapers and broadcasters relied least on press releases.
Using them most heavily were smaller outlets such as suburban and rural newspapers, some types of magazines, trade press and specialist publications.
The heaviest users of all were travel magazines, which in some cases were overwhelmingly dominated by handouts published with barely a word changed.
In fact, this survey itself was released, or promoted, in order to generate publicity for an event organised by the Public Relationas Institute of Australia.
Nothing wrong with that.
Nevertheless, the sheer size of the PR contribution has to make you wonder about the value-add of many media outlets.
The value-add of the media is not supposed to be just about distribution, journalism should be part of the deal.
Yet faced with declining revenues and increasing costs, the media has tended to cut back on its investment in journalism and rely more and more on all that ‘free’ content from PR.
Journalists end up being little more than media release sub-editors.
No matter how good PR content is, and it can be very good and it can be awful, it’s not the same as journalism.
I believe the audience can sense the difference, not in every instance but more generally, and the public’s ability to know that they are getting advertising dressed up as journalistic content might be one reason why they find media less compelling and engaging than a generation ago.