There’s never any shortage of articles on the troubles facing the newspaper industry, but the New Year has brought a handful of thought-provoking pieces that are well worth reading.
I can’t predict the future of media (and the PR industry) any better than anyone else, but I do think some answers can be found in these pieces. The articles also remind me of a recent conversation I had with a recently laid off tech journalist. He (I’ll leave him anonymous), believes PR firms will increasingly look like custom publishing houses. Given the trends and developments outlined in these (and other) articles, I tend to agree.
One final thought before the links: If Clay Shirky is right (see #3) and the last print pub left standing is Brides Magazine, what will we say to all those clients who insist on print coverage?
“End Times”, Michael Hirschorn, The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200901/new-york-times
“Why the New York Times Won’t Cease Printing”, Felix Salmon, Conde Nast Portfolio: http://www.portfolio.com/views/blogs/market-movers/2009/01/07/why-the-new-york-times-wont-cease-printing?tid=true
“The Shape of things to come”, Tom Teodorczuk/Clay Shirky, The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jan/05/clay-shirky-future-newspapers-digital-media
“Let’s Invent an iTunes for News”, David Carr, New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/business/media/12carr.html?em
“The Future of News”, Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Weekly: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/?inc=article&id=984&x=the-future-of-news&_c=news
“The New Journalism: Goosing the Grey Lady”, Emily Nussbaum, New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/news/features/all-new/53344/
I met with Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, at the Ogilvy PR offices in San Francisco. He shared with me his thoughts about what’s new in the blogosphere in 2009.
According to a new book released by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, journalists face “two years of carnage”.
Titled “A report, Life in the Clickstream: The Future of Journalism”, the book also revealed it’s very possible that the biggest media companies in the US will come crashing down due to cost-cutting and reduced quality, while five in 11 newspapers will vanish in Britain. After all, more than 12,000 journalists around the world lost their jobs this year.
Media Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren said that usually, journalism has traditionally “thrived on the emergence of disruptive technologies even as economic models have changed”. The Australian newspaper spoke to Christopher and filed a story yesterday.
In the article Warren says: “Like all crises, the challenges journalism faces are rewriting everything we thought we knew about the news media and causing us to question the basis on which the industry has survived and flourished.” Whilst journalists are using technology to find new and progressive ways to keep the public informed, in the report 70 per cent revealed they’re now experiencing increased workloads due to a shrinking of the workforce.
As to the future, 19 per cent said they were excited about the future of journalism, but 35 per cent said they were pessimistic about their prospects.
Just like the PR industry has to modify the rule book in terms of how it uses social media and the Internet to help its clients participate in conversations and reach new influencers outside heritage media; by the same token journalists and publishers face even tougher challenges to retain relevance, especially as audiences continue to fragment the world over and chose multiple sources for information. Add to this the financial crisis now sweeping the world and further cost pressures will only amplify the speed of change.
The Australian article looks at what might evolve if mainstream news organisations collapse, citing research from the City University of New York. That says an organic news organisation could evolve - based on bloggers, video shooters and photographers, it would be augmented by community managers, program developers artists and run by just a handful of editors, all on an annual budget of $2.1 million.
On a brighter note, and to update on my last post about PC Magazine’s decision to cull its print title, Roy Morgan has just released circulation figures in Australia for the last 12 months. The good news is that PC magazines did remarkably well. PC User’s readership climbed from 281,000 to 313,000 while APC went up from 275,000 to 280,000. PC Authority went up from 154,000 to 158,000, and PC Powerplay up from 111,000 to 115,000. Netguide was the only tech title to record a fall, dipping from 106,000 to 99,000. For even more analysis, check out last year’s results to compare.
Some good news to end on.
Whilst there is a lot of attention and focus right now on the recession and how it will impact IT spending, I am sure the Wednesday’s news that PC Magazine will close its print edition to go 100 per cent online did not go unnoticed. I would imagine this decision will have many asking themselves the question “if PC Magazine can’t sustain itself, who can?”
It is a trend that we have seen in Australia with PC World doing the same thing some months back.
So, is this a shock or simply a result of market forces?
Having spent nine good years myself at Yellow Pages through the late 80s to the mid 90s, there was a belief then that the print directory would disappear. It didn’t happen and the book is still going strong and has a place in most homes sitting underneath the phone. But of course, online consumption is powering ahead and at some stage I am sure it will all go online.
But in light of PC Magazine’s decision, is this going to be a watershed moment for the PC and technology magazine industry?
Arguably, PC Magazine has been the world’s number one PC publication for much of its history, so this decision will make many other publishers take note and consider their strategies.
Personally, I think online is not a problem and in fact opens new opportunities for us and our clients: deadline cycles change, faster news cycles, more opportunity for video, for reader comments and so on. Also, much easier to track and monitor stories. Bring it on.
But with the global financial crisis and such a Goliath dropping its print edition, it’s hard not to imagine it won’t have some kind of knock-on effect. Let’s hope not. Long live technology magazines, if not in print, online.
I’m going to paint a bit of a picture and I’d like to see if you can determine the common thread between the following:
A typical day for me:
- Waking up to my ipod as an alarm clock
- Downloading and listening to podcasts on my commute
- Spordically checking blackberry while on the bus
- Scouring my Google Reader for news, alerts, trends
- Conducting daily business including conference calls, blogging (on TechPR Nibbles and a personal blog), Twitter-ing, e-mailing, etc.
The common thread? It’s all D.I.G.I.T.A.L
Which leads me to think about how much information we consume each day. We’ve all heard the statistics from way back when that noted how much our brains can process every day, hour, minute, etc. But can you imagine what that stat would look like now compared to two decades ago? We are, completely, totally immersed in digital consumption. Can we ever get too full?
I love having each of my days filled with technology. Yet, I’ll admit, there are some days I just want to come home and rest my eyes and not stare at a screen. (It is during these moments that I remember how nice it is to pick up a book and turn pages!) Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ve ever been so informed as I am now. Yes, as a member of Gen Y, I’ve grown up in a digital atmosphere of early adopters and trend-loving peers. But our world is accelerating at such a rapid pace, we Gen Y’ers are definitely not alone.
I consider a large part of my job to be consumption. Yes, I have a lot of producing to do, too. Don’t get me wrong- I love both parts. The Digital World, if you will, allows me to be immersed, 24/7 in news, opinions, reviews, trends, events and beyond and it’s done in a variety of outlets. Yes, I still love to read Real Simple & BusinessWeek when I’m on flights or sitting in a doctor’s office- you can’t beat the glossy pages, let’s be honest. Yet, it goes without saying that technology allows us to do our jobs better and to succeed. It allows us to reach for knowledge at a more rapid pace and to utilize it to the best of our ability.
Did I ever see myself working in Tech PR originally and loving all things digital? No. But it’s introduced me to a world beyond my normal interests because our clients are innovators and influencers. They inspire and they create. So, while some days we may feel too bombarded by digital devices, social media and the likes, when you take advantage of it- the consumption can truly be…delicious.
PRWeek is turning 10 in the US and I was asked to write a brief post for their blog. You can find it here. Below the ”longer”, original version.
Happy birthday, PRWeek!
I first arrived at Silicon Valley 10 years ago, almost to the day. Most people were still using Altavista and Netscape. The word “social” was rarely used, and never before “media” or “networks”. But at every Starbucks - from Santa Cruz to Pleasanton — everyone was talking about the next big thing. Everybody had a business plan. Everyone was able to “get funding.” Companies were changing their names, often adding a .com to the brand so their valuations could go up. Apple was launching the iMacs, then the iPod. It was “boom” time. Things were crazy. I had just arrived from Italy and my country had never seen such madness, at least not since the Renaissance! (we would a few years later, with the World Cup in 2006.)
Most of the PR professionals I knew left their “boring” corporate or agency jobs to join a dotcom. The mirage, the hollow promise of becoming an instant millionaire was just too tempting to turn down. I was new to this market, loved my job, and was not interested in putting it at risk. And then, the bubble burst. And were in the middle of it. People who a few months earlier had left to get rich were calling me to get their jobs back.
What did we all learn? The strategic importance of PR during a downturn. It can help companies gain market share and end up much stronger than before. From an agency perspective, obsessive client service and compulsive focus on your talent base - all these things helped us get through that difficult time. And they’ll help us again.
And at every Starbucks now, I still hear about innovation, about the next big thing. The difference is that now I’ll tweet about it before draining my coffee cup.
With much uncertainty and chatter on how the economic crisis will impact the technology sector in 2009, I thought now would be a good time to share some thoughts and seek other’s opinions.
In Australia, the panic button has not been hit, but keen to get a sense from our global friends on the mood elsewhere.
If history is a measure on what may happen, those hardest hit in times like this have tended to be the hardware and software vendors, especially the consumer sector. But on the flip side, other segments like the IT services industry have done ok and continue to enjoy growth with cost conscious CIOs keen to outsource to third parties to save on their dwindling budgets.
Gartner has just released its top 10 strategic technologies for 2009 (not sure if this list was produced before the latest melt down), but nonetheless it would indicate that for some software categories it may not all be doom and gloom. If there is direct business value and associated cost savings that bodes well. If there isn’t, then trouble looms. But that should be the case at any time regardless of a recession.
Personally, I still think some of these technologies may still be a low priority if the funds start to dry up. What do you think?
For ease of use here is Gartner’s 2009 crystal ball:
Incredibly, Green IT was number one last year. At a time when the environment needs all the protection it can get, this forecast is a tad disappointing. Other technologies that have dropped back in priority include unified communications, which was number two last year.
However, an analyst here in Australia, Bruce McCabe, at S2 Intelligence disagrees with Gartner. In an interview with ZDNet Australia he says everyone is still very focused on power consumption in IT hardware and there is no question that green IT has continued to move up the list of priorities.
With much commentary to come on just how the technology sector will weather the economic downturn, many of our clients will be adjusting their tactics and strategies for 2009 and into 2010.
Is there going to be a major slowdown in technology spending, or will organisations still take advantage of the benefits that technology can and does represent?
Enterprise technology PR professionals, stop your whining and start your engines. So you think the media and blogging worlds are only interested in your brand story if it is centered around a CE gadget running on 3G, delivering cloud applications and fueled by solar cells. Not so!
The b2b tech PR community breathed a palpable sigh of relief this morning (over coffee) in seeing William M. Bulkeley’s half page WSJ print (yes that medium) story on Cutting Tech’s Energy Bill; Computer Makers See Profits in Retooling Clients’ Data Centers.
Just what should we take from this? A perfect storm of questions more business journalists should be asking like:
a. Where is enterprise IT growth coming from? Data centers, Virtualization, Storage – you betcha, and more.
b. How is the corporate world impacted by energy costs and how will pain on the bottom line drive adoption of power-savings technologies?
c. Should more corporations be publicly reporting on their plans to curb electricity consumption?
Clearly, interest in speaking to ‘green for dollars-sake’ has not ebbed. As b2b tech PR professionals, it’s our job more than ever to think broadly about the constituencies who have an interest in these issues. Listen to them and engage with them as appropriate.
What do you see as the great untold b2b stories today? What companies are doing a good job in your view of making their enterprise technology stories relevant to broader social, environmental and economic trends? We want to hear from you!
Disclaimer: Ogilvy advertising works with IBM.
This may be a slightly controversial post with many different opinions floating around. Let me know what you think and whether this is a global trend.
Nick Davies, an investigative journalist of 30 years’ standing who works mainly for England’s Guardian newspaper, has put the spotlight rather savagely on his own industry and questioned what he sees as a deeply disturbing decline in journalistic standards. He also cites PR as a contributor. These assertions were recently aired in a TV interview in Australia on the ABC.
Davies says that journalistic standards are declining the world over as cost cutting and government pressures take toll on the industry. In his book, Flat Earth News, which focuses mainly on the state of UK quality newspapers, he argues that the combination of manipulation by government and the PR industry on a media industry under endless cost-cutting pressures and an expanding workload is a pattern repeated the world over. An irony of timing with big staff cuts just announced at Australia’s oldest newspaper group, Fairfax Media.
In the interview Davies says, “Big corporations have taken over newspapers, which used to be owned by small family firms, and injected the logic of commercialism into newsrooms and that logic has overwhelmed the logic of journalism.
“The big structural sign of that is that all across the developed world these new corporate owners of the newsrooms have cut editorial staff at the same time as they’ve increased the output of those staff. And the result of that is, crudely put… in the UK we did a big calculation on this, your average Fleet Street reporter now has only a third of the time to spend on each story that he or she used to have 20 years ago. If you take away time from reporters, you are taking away their most important working asset. So they can’t do their jobs properly any more.
“In this commercialised world, you have journalists who instead of being active gatherers of news - going out and finding stories and making contacts and doing funny old-fashioned things like checking facts, they’ve become instead passive processors of second-hand information, stuff that come up on the wire Reuters or AP, stuff that comes from the PR industry. And they churn it out. I use this word “churnalism” instead of journalism.”
Davies clearly feels journalists are led along, particularly by the PR industry. His examples are not so much in the technology sector, although he does talk about the millennium bug, but more mainstream. He also notes a pattern of many journalists who have lost their job moving across to PR.
Davies says the impact of electronic technology is very complex on this whole problem.
Whilst he admits journalists can do more research from the desktop and stories remain online permanently, the second implication is that they’ve lost their deadlines. He says the pressure is immense, always there five minutes ahead of your nose every day. Not only that, but journalists now have to write the story, do an audio version, a vodcast, a podcast, and so it goes on. The end result is the quality of the work is going down even though the amount and the variation of the product is increasing.
And his thoughts on bloggers is also quite depressing.
“I don’t agree with the view that we will be saved by the operation of citizen journalists and bloggers…..an awful lot of what bloggers put out is false, is crazy ideas and crazy facts, to the extent that bloggers have reliable information very often that’s because they’re feeding off the small extent to which the mainstream media are coming up with reliable information. If the mainstream is going to carry on getting weaker, as I fear, then the proportion of reliable information which the bloggers come up with will also decline,” he says.
And his prognosis for TV and radio is no different. “It’s in the same kind of mess that the print media are in. There’s no difference, I’m afraid, because news is expensive and unless we find a new financial model we won’t be able to deliver it and I don’t quite see where that new financial model is coming from and I don’t know any media proprietor who can see it either. They’re all very worried.”
Personally, whilst there are some points in this article that I concur with, I think the accusation of PR being a big contributor to the quality of journalism is a bit of a stretch. Like many industries in this modern era, publishers have to change their business models and this will impact their operations. This is changing the way in which journalists spend their working day. But technology can also help and I don’t think Davies looks at that side much either in this interview. I haven’t read the book, but my hunch is that it will be overlooked.
I think the technology press are adapting well, blending online and print, or dropping print and going totally online. We have seen the size of editorial teams decline and technology journalists are getting younger. But the young ones seem very adaptable, taking content for print, shooting a video and posting fast. Many of them are also generalists rather than specialists. But despite those circumstances, they are smart, savvy people and it is no different trying to get a story up with them now than it was three years ago. In fact, with some smaller books due to the decline in advertising spend, in many instances it is getting harder.
Personally I am not a fan of Second Life - it has never captured my imagination and with three children, two of teenage years, it hasn’t captured their’s either. Clearly, for the virtual world creators at Linden Lab, and the early adopters that got on board at the start, it has been a success. But like most things, once the hype and excitement of a new application wanes, that is when the real effort begins. Can Second Life really sustain a presence, continue to innovate and attract new users, whether personal or business? You decide.
But one Australian researcher, Kim MacKenzie, a PhD student at the Queensland University of Technology, is trying to find the answer. Kim is completing her honours year thesis around the business applications of Second Life. She studied 20 international brands over three months last year and has come to the conclusion that many were either ghost towns or worse, had shut up shop. She often found herself wondering around with no evidence of anybody in. See the full article posted today by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Asher Moses.
Linden Labs released figures in April that showed Second Life active users in Australia were 12,245, down from 16,000 towards the end of last year. Not very impressive. According to the Herald article by Asher, it is suggested that brand engagement is not really going to be in Second Life, or not at this time.
MacKenzie herself suggests the application is still a few years ahead of the curve and companies hadn’t done enough to advertise their presence there; or, when more advanced features are added such as voice chat, she believes it will grow in popularity. I guess time will tell.
I don’t know what your experience is with or in Second Life. Are you a corporation that has had success? Or has it been an experiment or a tool to engage your staff? Or do you agree with Kate’s thesis? Or are we all missing the point? Do share.
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR