PR needs media on the front foot

So-called "traditional" media is going through fundamental changes as it deals with changing consumption habits and the proliferation of social media and free content.

So-called "traditional" media is going through fundamental changes as it deals with changing consumption habits and the proliferation of social media and free content.

Today, every brand and every individual can be a media owner -—it is no longer necessary to have large printing presses and broadcast infrastructure to transmit content. Print circulations are in decline and recruitment, classified, and display advertising that once garnered dollars in print now attract cents online. TV viewing is increasingly on-demand and time-shifted, giving viewers the chance to skip advertising.

It has all contributed to an atmosphere of doom and gloom in recent years, as media companies reshape their businesses and prepare to face an exciting, but very different, future. It's exciting because users still want content, and they can now get it in so many more formats and via multiple devices - when and where they want it. It's different because it won't be funded in the same way.

At our recent PRWeek Lab, it was described as the biggest re-engineering of business in modern times, never mind just media. It was also suggested that context is now king, rather than content.

Communications is getting on the front foot in this new media environment, positioning brands as media owners and using social media to engage consumers directly. At yesterday's Edelman New Media Academic Summit, News Corporation's chief digital officer Jonathan Miller and Conde Nast group president David Carey both bucked the trend towards pessimism about the future of media. Sure, their businesses face big challenges, but they are coming to terms with these challenges and doing something about it.

Conde Nast just relaunched its Gourmet food magazine as an iPad application. And News Corporation is bringing in paywalls for its British newspapers, starting with the London Times. Gourmet Live doesn't have an editorial team, while Miller emphasized that News Corp will have to keep investing in quality content to get people to pay. Two different approaches, but both with proper revenue models, and both attempts to move struggling media businesses onto a stronger footing that is sustainable for the future.

Communications still needs strong media brands, and PR agencies are the ones who can help those brands move their engagement with brands and organizations onto the next level as well.

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