Danny Rogers: Media revolution may yet turn full circle

About a year ago, I wrote a piece here highlighting the significance of senior journalists such as Guto Harri (ex-BBC, now Mayor of London's office) and Peter Barron (ex-Newsnight, now Google's head of comms) moving to a career in PR.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

Last month, we saw probably the most high-profile defection since then - The Sun's political editor George Pascoe-Watson joining Portland PR. PR headhunters are reporting a flood of enquiries from senior hacks.

This influx of talent remains good news for the comms sector, which was once the refuge for journalists on the verge of retirement rather than in their prime. More worrying is the implication for the British media, which, instead of replacing this talent, continue to lay off swathes of journalists.

Unlike the PR sector, which has so far got off relatively lightly, the media have been decimated by this recession and the deeper structural changes in publishing.

But is this trend sustainable? Two years ago, Nick Davies, in Flat Earth News, wrote of the relative expansion of PR employment compared with journalism. Today, the imbalance is far worse.

PR is unusually successful in this country precisely because we have such a dynamic journalistic culture, which demands expert advice and judgement from comms specialists and, of course, provides opportunity for creative PR promotion.

So with a dearth of poachers, can the gamekeepers continue to thrive?

One suspects what we are actually seeing is a rebalancing of the media community. Although there are thousands fewer full-time jobs in journalism, there is a growing number of influential blogs, some of which attract huge audiences, break big stories and become definitive sources of comment on their specialisms.

But with such success, it is likely that these independent bloggers will start wanting to make a living out of their efforts. Some will accept paid-for advertising. They may even start considering paid subscriptions. In other words, they could face the same dilemmas as the old media from whence many of them came.

There is already a debate raging about whether PR professionals should pay influential bloggers (see page 12 of this issue), which suggests that this media revolution may yet turn a full circle.

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