Writing an Op-Ed? Think Again..
Op-eds provide experts with a coveted piece of real estate to articulate their messages and publicize their names. However, it’s time we address that op-eds have changed a lot in the last 60 years—the prevailing wisdom on how, and where, you can place them, and the type of impact they have has shifted dramatically. Over the last seven months, top-tier outlets have been inundated with “thought leaders” trying to get their perspectives out into the public as traditional earned media hits have dried up in the wake of COVID-19 coverage. As a result, in early September, we audited who was publishing op-eds, how frequently, and just how impactful they were. What’s different about the media? The media landscape has drastically changed over the course of this year. Newsrooms across the country have shrunk at unprecedented rates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing recession. According to Pew, in 2008, there were roughly 114,000 newsroom employees in the U.S. In 2019, that number fell to 88,000, while 1,800 print outlets shut their doors between 2004 and 2015. These rates are only accelerating due to the current state of the economy. As a result, fewer reporters are now expected to publish more content than ever before. Simultaneously, there’s also more than enough important news to cover: the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing protests around racial injustice, natural disasters, and the looming presidential election. Yet in the environment we live in, organizations and thought leaders have more objectives to accomplish, more messaging to share, and more time to author content. Who’s publishing and how much? Clyde Group analyzed seven publications with sizable audiences inside the Beltway: POLITICO, New York Times, Morning Consult, Axios, Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal. Our analysis began on February 1—when rumblings of COVID-19 started to hit the U.S.—and went through August 31, 2020. Various trends became immediately apparent.
- The New York Times published far more opinion content than any other publication, while Axios published the least. Due to their respective publishing and business models, this wasn’t surprising.
- The majority of publications saw significant spikes in the number of op-eds published during what we refer to as the “COVID Quarter” between April and June. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the pieces focused on COVID-19—economic impact, health care, treatments and vaccines, future of work, and more.
- There was no correlation between someone’s title and their likelihood of being published. Sure, if the author is a senator, governor, or other notable public official, their chances increase. However, when looking at more “mundane” titles across various industries, there was no advantage to being a CEO or president versus an attorney, physician, or researcher.