Op-Eds and Commentary: Foolhardy Investment or Sure-Bet Opportunity for Social Engagement?
Posted on Mar 23, 2010
As newspaper circulations continue to decline, is it still worth it to write and pitch op-eds? Given the reach of Google, the exponential growth in social media and the long afterlife of a print op-ed in the online world, the value of an old-fashioned print op-ed is only increasing. The latest State of the Media report from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism is clear: Across print, broadcast and online media, “commentary and discussion…adding analysis, passion and agenda shaping…is growing.” In fact, op-eds may be the slice of yesterday’s newspapers best suited for the same free-for-all of the web that is changing the face of the media business. Op-eds and commentaries engage readers—and editorial page editors and advertisers know it. When users click on, comment about and share this content, news executives see online metrics that are quickly becoming as important a publication’s print circulation or program’s ratings. Trying to shape public opinion? Looking to galvanize and activate your community? The op-ed in print and online—and as it ricochets throughout the social media universe—can produce extraordinary results. The key: refusing to rest once you secure the print op-ed placement. By actively pushing out the commentary though social media channels, your op-ed can be the shot heard ‘round the world—and reach the world’s most engaged and passionate readers.
Consider the following:
Commentaries reach a highly-educated and activate-able audience. People who read a newspaper’s editorial sections already tend to be the “influentials” of a community and more educated compared with a newspaper’s readers overall. About half of the people who read editorial pages are college graduates (approximately 21 million). Online news consumers using WSJ.com and NYT.com are more likely to write a letter to the editor, call a radio or TV show to express an opinion, and vote than those who do not visit these sites.
Compared to news coverage, op-eds are virtually unfiltered. As newsroom budgets are continually slashed, there are fewer reporters left to cover only the most shocking breaking stories and a few trend or analysis pieces for good measure. The news that is covered is most often distilled to the lowest common denominator: pro or con. On the other hand, op-eds offer the personal megaphone that’s not available through traditional news coverage. * Online, the space and distribution opportunities for op-eds are virtually unlimited. To hold users, newspapers and magazines, as well as CNN, NPR and others, post endless amounts of online commentaries and related content. These outlets need high-quality, thought-provoking content, which you can offer—it’s a match made in heaven.
Op-eds can jumpstart or deepen your online community engagement. Even if the online traffic is not as strong compared to when newspapers were king, social media tools can extend the reach of a traditional op-ed. With Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and the ever-expanding menu of social media tools and other creative re-purposing, any organization can use a commentary to amplify its message and launch a truly global dialogue from a laptop at the kitchen table. The best reason to invest time and effort into developing, placing and sharing a commentary? It’s a fact, columnists have changed the world from the op-ed page. Nick Kristof helped put the genocide in Darfur on the map with his columns in the New York Times. And outsiders have done it as well. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson changed the course of history and public policy with his July 2003 New York Times op-ed criticizing the Bush Administration’s case for going to war in Iraq. Now consider how much more powerful our megaphones have become in the last few years with the explosion of social media. It means your commentary has endless opportunities and potential to help shape history. That’s what GMMB is working to do each day—helping our clients improve lives and make a profound difference in the world.