Media, often chastised for their slow recognition of the impact of technology, is now embracing the digital world and rapidly reinventing its business. That was the theme shared by a panel of media representatives at DCWEEK yesterday. A case in point offered by Angie Goff, with NBC Washington: she raised eyebrows from bosses two years ago when she solicited input from viewers through Twitter, but now it is the station that actively promotes her Twitter handle on-screen while she broadcasts.
Insights from the panelists on the state of media today in a digital world:
• Angie Goff, NBC Washington, on Crowdsourcing: “What people like drives our news content. Whether a journalist or not, everyone has a voice. We are crowdsourcing with people that know more than journalists. We make people feel like they have a piece of the news. I’m surprised that more news outlets don’t have social media reporters that sort through content and data.”
• Vijay Ravindran, Washington Post, on Audience-Building: “Moving from a general content provider to a specific content provider is challenging. You have to know what you are best at and you need a concentrated strategy. We are for Washington and about Washington, we are not a national paper of record.”
• Susan Poulton, National Geographic, on Quality Journalism: “As we opened up to other audiences, some at NatGeo worried whether the quality of photos and the quality of writing would be the same. What we found was that the level of curation was raised by attaching the NatGeo brand and some of the photos submitted were just absolutely amazing.”
• Vijay Ravindran, Washington Post, on Monetization: “Everyone has been focused on building audiences and there has not been much innovation around monetization. There will be a flood of innovation surrounding monetizing original content or it will get smaller and smaller. Those are the only two options. The key for the music business when it went digital was to own the total experience not just the music.”
• Angie Goff, NBC Washington, on Content Creation: “More than ever now, there is a need for constant content. We don’t care where it comes from, but the key is making it relevant and something our users have shown an interest in. We don’t want to be a commercial.”
At the Australian launch of Windows7 today, Microsoft has invited Twitter followers to take part, with the event being streamed live through Ustream.tv . These followers have the chance to engage directly with senior Microsoft executives, and during the Q&A session, every fourth question will come directly from the Twitter feed.
However, a number of journalists are not keen. First they would prefer questions only come from journalists at the event itself. Second, they’re worried the Twitter questions will be filtered and that only the easy ones will be answered. Third, they’re concerned it will take up too much time and give real journalists less opportunity to table their questions. But with only 140 characters and no follow up, it’s not likely to be a time consuming exercise.
One alternative suggestion put forward by a journalist is to run a Q&A by the likes of Slashdot and Digg, where questions are crowd sourced, than a top ten are posed to the interviewee and would better represent what the audience wants to know.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how it goes and the reaction. Twitter is now common place on TV with live studio audience shows using it to get questions in real time from viewers.
How many other PRs, particularly from the tech sector, are incorporating Twitter feeds like this into big events? What has the feedback been? Keen to hear what people think.
The media and communications worlds may be in great turmoil and evolution respectively, but a few things remain the same. Media and PR pros both love lists. Lists bring order to things, allow analysts to analyze, and give a platform for brands to say, “see why you should love me”.
This year’s World’s Best Companies list from BusinessWeek ventures to teach our technology PR discipline a little bit more.
Here are a few lessons, some old some new, that jumped out at me.
A.T. Kearney says looking forward they see two important factors that are most likely to drive global economic performance - “leveraging technology and innovation to enhance productivity, and demographic shifts such as graying populations. “
The former bodes well for technology PR pros. Until then, long live the list!
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.
I have mentioned the benefits of using social bookmarking sites before but I think it’s beneficial to mention it again - mainly people seem to be more receptive to using online Web 2.0 tools these days. And more and more, we are seeing people use these tools in a professional sense.
For example, PR practitioners and journalists in Australia are now frequenting Twitter as part of their daily grind. Journalists are using Twitter to put a shout out for spokespeople for stories they are writing. PR practitioners are shouting out news announcements and interview opportunities in a bid to get media interest.
I’m a great fan of Digg. For those newbies out there, a ‘digg’ is similar to a favourite.
The content on Digg is submitted by the consumer and is voted on by other consumers. The more ‘diggs’ you get on content that you have uploaded, the higher up it climbs in the Digg ranks. If you’re content is absolutely fabulous and many people are ‘digging’ it, it can even be promoted to the front site page for millions of site visitors to see.
Digg is a fantastic example and proof point of a successful online community!
Leveraging these sites as a PR professional or a journalist
If you receive a fantastic piece of online media coverage for a client of yours, you can upload it to Digg. You will then be asked to submit the content along with a title, description and a tag that is suitable for the content.
What are the benefits? More journalists today are using social bookmarking sites to research specific categories. And It’s a tool you can use to try and generate additional media coverage for a client.
If you aren’t already doing so, I would suggest that you join Digg. Upload your published online content to the site. By submitting stories here you are extending your reach to a truly global audience. You can even build a cult following in Digg - those that will get to know and love your stories, read them and share them on with others.
Bloggers are using Digg as part of their daily beat as well. Increasingly, we are seeing instances of where bloggers or journalists pick up others news stories from Digg and reference it in their blogs - increasing the popularity of the story and the site origination.
I encourage you all to set up a Digg account and start experimenting. I’d love to hear your thoughts on social bookmarking sites? Can it really work to leverage stories? Can you really generate additional media coverage by submitting content to the site?
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.
It is becoming increasingly evident that more business users are jumping online during the work day to frequent social networking sites, using it as an online hub to conduct business and connect with other users for work purposes. For example, Twitter is becoming not only a hang out place to connect with friends but from a professional standpoint I am seeing that PR practitioners and journalists are using it as a portal to tap into useful networks, scoop out stories, identify spokespeople and generate outcomes.
Interestingly enough, as we see this trend escalate, eMarketer predicts that advertisers in the US will spend $40 million this year to reach the business audience on different social networking sites. And according to its forecasts, this spend is expected to reach $210 million in 2012.
The very nature of a social network is that it connects like-minded people and those with common hobbies and interests. It is therefore no surprise that we are seeing this behaviour among the business audience. And what’s more, the very nature of social network sites is providing advertisers and marketers with great opportunities to reach out to the exact audience they are wishing to tap into, as social networking sites become even more purpose-built and niche.
Another example is LinkedIn. LinkedIn describes itself as “A networking tool to find connections to recommend job candidates, industry experts and business partners…” This site is a recruiters dream! With its member subscription having doubled in the last year, this is the ideal environment to scope out and head hunt potential talent.
I recently viewed by profile on LinkedIn and I was able to track not only how many people viewed my profile in the last 27 days but it also told me who these people were. One was ’someone in the Human Resources industry’ and the other was an ‘Account Director at Howorth Communications’. Nothing is sacred anymore.
These are just a few proof points that indicate the power of social networking sites in business and how sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter (and others) are increasingly becoming poweful tools that facilitate important business connections.
Do you think this trend will continue to escalate? Or are social networking sites merely fad? Would love your thoughts.
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR