The Value of Press Clippings: A Common Myth Dispelled (FAQs and Infographic)

By Todd Murphy, Vice President, Universal Information Services

Would you measure the value of a car based on the size of engine alone? Would you gauge the quality of a restaurant based only on the cocktails they serve? For the thinking majority, and in my opinion, the answer would be “No.”

Recently, changes within the news monitoring industry have prompted some to question the value of the individual mediums that news tracking services monitor. With only a couple of us now tracking all media and providing true measurement of those results, my unique perspective may provide you with some value within this question… or it may not. One can’t always be right.

You most likely saw the releases announcing that long-time press clipping service Cision (formerly Bacons) had sold their press clipping unit to a competitor. As one of the best news monitoring services in the United States, that announcement was somewhat shocking when taken at face value. However, studying their recent moves and public announcements, the decision seems in line with their overall strategy to focus their efforts in a different way. Still, when a company like Cision, whose name is synonymous with press clippings, makes waves like that, the news is bound to hit many shores.

For those who restrict their news consumption to 140 characters or less, or only response comments on blogs they read from competitors, the easiest assumption to make would be that the decline in the newspaper industry has directly impacted the value of press clipping services in a negative way. In other words, less published news content has decreased the value and interest of placing a story in the print media.

Now, before I launch into my three reasons why this assumption is wrong, I will concede that the evolving landscape of all news media has changed the way news monitoring services track your news. However, this causality isn’t because one medium is less valuable, but rather our change in monitoring and measurement has been precipitated by an equal shift in how PR professionals and communicators should be earning their media exposure. Think in terms of just “media”, instead of mainstream vs. new media.

Getting down to basics, let’s look at print media monitoring relative to the other three primary mediums of Broadcast, Online News, and Social Media. Acknowledging there are niche opportunities where specializing in a single medium is warranted, here I’m going to talk about the most common public relations effort. Every moment of every day, most public relations involve a balanced effort working to impact consumer beliefs or behaviors in a traditional B2C environment. By “balanced” I only mean specific outcomes are judged relative to organizational goals and may utilize any or all four of the above named mediums of print, broadcast, web and social.

The evidence…

  • The most recent research shows the majority of news delivered online and through social media is derived from the mainstream mediums of print and broadcast. This means that although online and social network consumption of information is rising quickly, the specific information delivered through those channels is from newspapers and broadcast networks. In other words, I wouldn’t be reading all that news in my twitter feed each morning if newspapers and TV affiliates weren’t creating content to be redistributed.
  • Mobile is huge. Nobody would dispute that, let alone me who has invested heavily in mobile for both marketing and delivery of our information. But, it is important to view mobile as simply another conduit by which we can receive information. Evolution is the key concept here, and developers are smart in recognizing that focusing on ease of use is the best way to ensure there will be content for their new mobile platforms. This falls under my #samerules #newtools philosophy. Each subsequent medium has made consumption ever easier. But, it is important to note that each new medium has neither supplanted prior mediums, nor rendered the fundamentals of communication obsolete. The same rules of communication still apply, we just have some great new tools to bring faster, easier, and broader consumption to the masses.
  • Investments in newspapers are increasing due to the rise of hyper-local news. Finally, I’m no Oracle of Omaha, although Warren Buffett and I both claim Omaha as our corporate headquarters. With Warren’s lead, I do believe recent investments in newspapers are a strong indicator that the shift in the published news model is nearly complete. Warren Buffett practices common sense investing and buys businesses that have a future. There are still papers that have some bleeding to do, but there are many publishers making money. The concept of hyper-local news has created a thirst for content so individualized that all media outlets benefit. PR professionals recognize the power hyper-local news has to influence their target demographic and now work to earn this type of placement. And, again, the ability to port that content to their online channels, and then amplify that content through the social networks, means that a single published story can now reach a far greater audience than ever before. Mainstream media drives online outlets and content for social networks.

In short, where do you think those stories come from that your target consumers read online each morning? With the exception of a few dozen online sources and blogs, mainstream media is still driving the public relations train. Perhaps, though, it is better for more people to realize that we’re no longer riding a train. We’re cruising at light speed. Monitoring where a story first pops in the mainstream media, and then mapping the engagement of that story as it resonates through newer mediums, is now the standard for public relations.

In most cases you shouldn’t evaluate your PR effort by only looking at one part of the mix. To dismiss print, television, or even radio as irrelevant is a great way to watch your client find a new AOR (agency of record for the non-PR/advertising types). Or put another way, to dine out only where they have great cocktails is a great way to eat a lot of very average food.




Todd Murphy is VP of Universal Information Services, where he specializes in the development of news monitoring and PR measurement solutions. Universal Information Services is a managed services provider for print, broadcast, web, and social media tracking. With interests in business intelligence, process management, and U.S. legislation impacting the media, Todd is positioned to continue the success that Universal has enjoyed for over 100 years.



  1. Amy on July 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Very insightful.

  2. Brian Pittman on July 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Glad you found it useful, Amy!


  3. Jeremy Lipschultz on July 10, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Excellent analysis, Todd. For the moment, online media are the future more than the present.

    • Todd Murphy on July 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Very true, but I think PR is best served by looking at the entire media mix rather than one over the other. They all work best when viewed as one platform with a variety of options within.

  4. Scott Robertson on July 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Great article and I couldn’t agree more. The conduits may change (and rapidly), but the need for strong communicators won’t.

  5. John Hamill on July 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    So true. When the polls began showing people turning to television as a primary source of news (way back in the day), I would remind clients (as a former TV reporter and news director) as to where most television stories originated: newspaper. Likewise, my communication major students who don’t know know newspapers from deep centerfield need to know that to reach the public you first must reach the media–and in most cases first base is a newspaper.

  6. Juan Hidalgo on July 11, 2012 at 4:06 am

    On point as always Todd — what i think we’ll see is a repositioning of our services to adjust to the new media. Print and broadcast aren’t just a source, it truly is a symbiotic relationship.

    And for those with reach outside the US, we would do well to recognize that mobile is in fact huge — it is the market… and that radio and print are still King.

  7. Frank McCallum on July 11, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Furthermore, one of the main ways social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, are promoted is through newspapers. So many of them now carry regular Celeb Tweets, and whenever there is a sudden death, particularly of a young person, the journos immediately get onto Facebook to see what friends are posting and reproduce them in the papers.

  8. Bob Steinkamp on July 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Excellent article with some great points; particularly the idea that the majority of the news people see in their social media newsfeeds originated with a traditional news outlet. One of the challenges PR professionals face (based on my own experience and from conversations with colleagues), is convincing clients and potential clients of that fact. We now budget in additional time when we meet with a potential client about a project that’ll involve media coverage/relations. We open up our own Facebook or Twitter streams and show them, or try to get them to open up their own newsfeeds to see for themselves. Quite often, they’re very surprised, once they stop and take a good look.

    • Todd Murphy on July 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      This is very interesting, but not surprising. Given the amount of space the online media devotes to promoting the myth that all news is now online, you spending time to educate your clients is understandable. I think it is great that you do help your clients understand the realities of where news content comes from.

      Online outlets are great at spreading the news, even when most of it comes from legacy mediums. Thanks for pointing this out.