Pittsburgh International’s news site shares stories of airports, travel and the state of the industry
By Bob Kerlik
What happens to your luggage after you drop it off at the ticketing counter? What motivates airlines to add flights at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)? What’s that airport modernization project all about, anyway?
That’s what PIT’s new content platform is all about. We call it Blue Sky.
Blue Sky includes news, videos and features from the front-lines and behind-the-scenes, telling the stories of airports, aviation and travel. The stories are written by airport staff, many of whom are former reporters and freelance writers.
“This is naturally the next step in the airport’s evolution as a world-leader in aviation,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis. “We want to communicate directly with travelers and the public, unfiltered.
“As the traditional media landscape continues to change, we want to be at the forefront of sharing the latest news,” she said. “This isn’t about PR spin. This is about informing the public with real news stories like any other media outlet.”
Pittsburgh International is the latest organization to embrace the idea of taking its news distribution in-house. Private companies and organizations have increasingly launched their own news sites, particularly in markets where traditional media outlets have dwindled. Count Coca-Cola, Disney, American Express and Adobe among private companies that have launched their own sites. Governmental organizations like Denver Water have also jumped into the news business.
“I think it’s not unusual for those that have been covered by the media to begin publishing their own stories,” said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, an organization dedicated to media education and strategy. “In terms of the economics of media, most newspapers don’t have as many people. It’s a way to provide coverage in the same way – and more coverage than there ever was.”
Corporate news sites are an example of organizations bypassing the traditional gatekeepers of news, Edmonds said.
“To the extent it’s done professionally with a news person’s eyes, I think it can be a good site and earn a reputation to be useful. Conversely, if it’s misused as PR – too much spin and less credibility – people may say it’s just a PR site for the airport.”
Professional sports teams, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, have been breaking their own news and communicating directly with fans for years, a tactic that has proved successful both for readers and for the organization, said Tom McMillan, the team’s Vice President of Communications.
“I think that it’s almost essential in today’s environment. When you look at how the business has changed, it wasn’t all that long ago that companies were totally reliant on the media. Now we almost have to speak to the fans directly,” McMillan said. “Media remains vital but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re missing the boat.”
McMillan said the Penguins have had two full-time writers dedicated to original content for their website for 10 years along with a social media team and a video department.
“We can break our own news,” he said. “We can offer news and perspective that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Blue Sky editors said they plan to keep the focus on the latest news that interests travelers and to inform the public about the strategy behind those decisions.
“We want to build news credibility and we have stories to tell. Just last year, there were more than 7,000 stories published that mentioned Pittsburgh International Airport world-wide. That’s up 53% since 2015,” said Executive Editor Paul O’Rourke. “Clearly, there is an appetite for aviation news from our airport.”
O’Rourke pointed to the extensive coverage surrounding the airport’s myPITpass – the first non-ticketed post-security program in the country – as well as the airport’s modernization plan as examples of stories that reach far beyond Pittsburgh.
“We have stories to tell,” he said, “and this is the way to tell them.”