Every year, the Canadian media landscape undergoes profound transformation, adapting to the needs of communities across the country and the influence of digital technology. But no year has been more unexpected than 2020, where the COVID-19 pandemic affected every aspect of the media – from the stories reported on to advertising and distribution.

To help understand what the media is facing today and how best we can support them with strong earned content, we conducted a survey during fall 2020 of editors, and broadcasters in Canada. Respondents represent a diverse cross-section of our national media, including those working for major national publications and small papers serving remote communities.

We found some interesting insights that are valuable to our clients and brands looking to share their key messaging through a trusted channel. Here are our key findings:

The media are looking for immediate content needs

When asked how far in advance they select articles for their publication (can include website or print copy), a third of media respondents said only a couple of days. Half select their articles one to two weeks in advance, and 16% select them a month ahead of time.

This shows the media are looking to fill immediate content needs and want timely, fresh articles that are relevant to current happenings and time of year. Of course, in order to make sure there’s enough time to edit, polish and fine-tune the content for maximum media impact, it’s still important to submit articles to the editorial team in advance according to the deadline.

Quality content wins

Overwhelmingly, the media are looking for quality content to support their outlet. When asked “what is the most important or first thing you look for in a News Canada article?” most said “quality.” The question let respondents rank their answers, and “quality” was followed by “general topic,” “supplement current content,” “length,” “headline, branding” and “support advertising.”

This suggests that strong content that provides valuable information, tips and advice to the audience will find the greatest success with earned media pickup.

Overly branded content hurts impressions

As we’ve heard from the media before, content that is too branded won’t find traction with the media. When asked what stops them from using News Canada content, the media chose “too branded” as the top response.

This underscores the importance of creating earned content that serves the media and their audiences, not the brand. As earned content, our articles and radios must be about the reader/listener first, with subtle branding incorporated in the key messaging.

Limiting brand mentions can go a long way towards securing great results and strong impressions and media pickup. We recommend a maximum of two brand mentions, including a URL, per piece of content, but based on these results one brand mention is best.

View or download our Writing Tips & Guidelines here.

Editors continue to rely on News Canada articles

We gave the media the option to provide open-ended comments and requests, and the results were revealing. They show the media continue to count on News Canada for lifestyle articles that support their publications and help them save time and resources in challenging times. Here are some of the comments we received:

  • “Continue to provide quality content”
  • “Provide valuable comprehensive content that is not overtly branded”
  • “Generate more lifestyle content”
  • “Keep providing interesting articles that are relevant to our readers”
  • “[We need] content that is relatable and impacts small communities”

Editors want a variety of lifestyle  content

We also wanted to see what topics are trending with the media, and which ones they want us to provide content for. Continuing the trend from previous years and our own performance metrics, real estate information is the top category. The real estate category including home and garden, up-to-date mortgage information, interior design tips, home staging, and steps for purchasing a home and resales.

Listed in order of popularity, these are the top categories the media are looking for:

  1. Real estate/ home and garden
  2. Automotive
  3. Financial advice
  4. Seniors
  5. Agricultural
  6. Newcomers
  7. Seasonal content such as Valentine’s Day and bridal

This information is very valuable when it comes to creating earned content. Whenever possible, it’s a smart strategy to create content that hits the top categories, especially anything home related. If you need help incorporating your brand story, products or services into trending categories, our editorial team is always available to make recommendations.

View or download our 2021 Editorial Calendar here.

Media radio insights

We also conducted a smaller survey of local radio stations in Canada. What we found is that most stations prefer 60-second spots and use them for lifestyle content, as well as filler content or to create a news segment.

This means that sticking to the 60-second limit for radio spots is essential, as it helps broadcasters slot them into their schedule. Making sure the radio scripts are not too promotional but rather offer an interesting lifestyle or news angle will help ensure a successful earned radio campaign.

Converting knowledge into results

Want to leverage these insights to create impactful earned media content that editors and broadcasters want to use? Fifth Story can help you use this information to achieve great coverage while conveying your key messaging. Reach out to us at info@fifthstory.com.