News_online By Melissa Kelz Ben-Yoseph

What’s the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning? If you’re like 80% of Americans aged 18 to 44, you reach for your smartphone. Maybe you check to see if you have any new texts, hit the “snooze” button on it, or use the device to turn on the lights or TV. Any way you slice it, four out of five smartphone users check their devices within the first 15 minutes of waking up, and for 80% it’s the first thing they do each and every morning, finds an International Data Corporation research report.

Smartphones have become the window to our worlds. Consumers crave immediate access to information with the swipe of a finger or the sound of their voice (thanks, Siri).

For decades, brands relied on print media to get their message out. Not anymore. Online is the new print, and it continues to be the most popular source for news.

More than half of Americans now receive their news from digital sources. Even the majority (55%) of New York Times readers—arguably the most traditional news source out there—say they read the paper mostly on a computer or mobile device. The change in consumption habits is one reason we’ve seen popular magazines like Fitness, Newsweek, and Lucky close their print version and move to an online platform. Other magazines are staffing up their online outlets and scaling down their
print teams.

The large majority of online outlets have higher circulations than traditional print publications. For example, the Sunday New York Times has more than 15 million unique visitors per month. Compare that to a circulation of a little more than two million in print.

Don’t fear this shift; embrace it. Online placements will optimize your web presence and boost your position on Google and other search engines. Readers are one swipe away from discovering more about your company. What’s more, online is a 24-hour news cycle, so you can immediately share breaking news.

Some print outlets may look glamorous, but they don’t provide the instant gratification that consumers demand. It can take months literally from the time you relay your message until it’s in print. Another plus is that online content lasts forever. Last month’s magazine gets recycled, but a spot online is permanent—a huge asset for your brand.

Managing your message in the online space is a critical part of this equation. A strong press release (a story or angle presented to media to secure coverage) outlining why the topic is significant or interesting is the first step, but your job’s not over after you hit “Send.”

Press releases and pitches can attract the attention of top-tier bloggers with a huge social media presence (think thousands to hundreds of thousands of devoted followers.) Yes, this will put your brand front and center in their network, but digital media can take on a life of its own when it’s shared from social network to social network. When something publishes online, it’s nearly impossible to recall.

Like a chess match, anticipate and prepare for how your news item will be picked up and processed on social media. All of this forethought and analysis should occur before you write your first word. This will help ensure your ability to control and reinforce your initial message regardless of which path it takes.

Melissa Kelz Ben-Yoseph is the founder and principal of KELZ PR Inc. She can be reached at melissa@kelzpr.com.