Traditional and Social Media Intertwined

Geoff Livingston: Traditional and Social Media: Forever Intertwined

Guest post by Geoff Livingston. Geoff is an author, public speaker and marketing strategist.

It’s impossible to separate social media and traditional media. They make one large ecosystem online, intertwined in an endless dance, and recorded through time via search engines.

Most shared stories on social networks come from traditional media, which in turn comprises roughly 10 percent of news media’s web traffic.

That means traditional public relations tactics, media relations and events have a direct impact on driving traffic to your online content and social media strategies.

Further, search algorithms also index news stories as critical sources of content. As news stories become “socially validated” with retweets, likes, repins, +1s and more, Google, Bing and Yahoo! algorithms become more likely to source them.

Classifying media seems to be the issue, but to me it’s become a question of quality and professionalism. Professional news and content created by journalists usually but not always surpasses blogs. However, many blogs are now professional media. Consider that the Huffington Post now ranks as a top ten news site in the United States.

Then you have a long tail of niche professional, and amateur blogs as well as aside variety of social networks.

General classification is the best we can do without the correct measurement tools, using a real-world full on case-study with all types of earned media opportunities.

Further, this assumes PR owns social media within a company. As time has evolved, we now see that PR and social media often serve intertwined roles or strategic tactics within the larger marketing department.

Perhaps it’s best to assume that all content forms as part of one market. As such, let’s conglomerate traditional and social media into a long tail chart, an a visualized economic theory of markets popularized by WIRED Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson.

As you can see, at the head of the tail we have the following media forms:

  • National broadcast – ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX
  • Major newspapers – New York Times, USA Today, etc.
  • Top magazines – BusinessWeek, Fortune, WIRED
  • Major social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.
  • Top cable channels – CNN, ESPN, etc.
  • Top 100 media company blogs – Huffington Post, Mashable, Techcrunch, Treehugger, etc. Generally speaking, blog content can vary from print to video, and these in essence are now professional media outlets.

At the turning point in the tail, roughly the 20 percent mark, you have several other forms of traditional media, which reflects the fall of some media, and the rise of new online and mobile media.

  • Major trade journals – Obviously, the powerhouse in any industry still holds sway, but the secondary journals have suffered quite a bit
  • Secondary social networks – For every FourSquare, there’s a Gowalla, not as popular, these secondary networks still drive tons of traffic
  • Regional newspapers: You don’t hear about the Denver Post much nationally. Still very powerful in the Rock Mountain region.
  • Secondary cable & TV: A&E, TBS, VH-1, etc.
  • National radio: ESPNRadio, FOX, etc.
  • Leading vertical blogs: And the winner here, no question. In PR for example, Brian Solis (who wrote Engage), will get as many or more reads as a Secondary PR journal.
  • Major “influencer” profiles: Finally on some of the social networks, you have highly “influential” profiles which either through mass followers or strong engagement can set of tidal wives of action via their profile

After that, you have the long tail, the vast majority of content.

From the traditional world, I think you can list the following: Local TV, local radio, local newspapers, secondary journals, corporate web sites, email newsletters, and press releases.

From the newer social media world, you can list: Social network profiles, secondary blogs, videos, photos, pinboards, maps, and mobile updates & check ins.

The Taxonomy Problem

The issue with this chart is the taxonomy, which seeks to isolate individual media forms and tools and their weight.

In reality — given today’s fractured media environment — one hit in any of these areas can trigger successive hits in others. When a word of mouth campaign has actual substance it usually cascades. Smart communicators understand this.

That’s why integrated outreach — not just social media or traditional PR & advertising — matters so much.

One great way to promote your new media initiative remains traditional media, who often use well-respected blogs as sources or even the subject of stories. Social media attention drives information into the spotlight forcing traditional media to pay attention – or look like they’ve missed the news, and most importantly the conversation. Blogs can be a more effective way of reaching and inspiring traditional media to react than most PR professionals and wire services combined.

Ping pong matches demonstrate that weighting one tool by its actual total community and eyeball impact fails. As Seth Godin said in Meatball Sundae, “It doesn’t matter if the socially generated earned media only gets one percent of the hoped for attention if it’s the right one percent.”

An older version of this post was published two years ago as How the Long Tail of Media Grows.

Geoff Livingston is an author, public speaker and strategist who helps companies and nonprofits develop outstanding marketing programs. He brings people together, virtually and physically for business and change. A former journalist, Livingston continues to write, and has authored three books.



  • Brian D. Meeks

    I agree that there is a mix. I’ve had success using my blog to promote my novels, but it was traditional media that made the difference in selling my one non-fiction book.

    • geofflivingston

      I find with my professional books that getting outside of my core community is what matters most… They get tired of the same old, same old. I don’t really have anything to say about fiction. Yet. ;)

  • Andrea Bona

    My son is a news
    producer for ABC/Fox on Columbus, Ohio, and he tells me the national news networks
    are more and more looking to local news outlets for news and information,
    including local newspapers. Much of the national network news, unless it is
    international or a catastrophic event, is gleaned from local reporters and video
    feeds. A lot of times the national network does not give the affiliate credit for the story.