At a recent meeting of the Counselors’ Academy of the PRSA, a prescient American PR executive (OK, it was my boss, Tom Hoog of Hill & Knowlton), gave us all some serious thoughts on the information revolution.
At a recent meeting of the Counselors’ Academy of the PRSA, a
prescient American PR executive (OK, it was my boss, Tom Hoog of Hill &
Knowlton), gave us all some serious thoughts on the information
He began with some reflections on recent journalism history. Somewhere
in the 1950s, folks began seriously watching the evening news on
television, and the decline of the afternoon/evening newspaper began,
until today they have vanished, along with the ’Extra.’ Who wants to
read something - even if just a few hours old -when it can be seen live,
as it happens?
And just as the evening paper has died, the evening TV news shows are
moribund. Audiences are down; more ominously, so is total audience
share, and the demographics are skewed -the declines are faster and
larger among younger viewers.
The conclusion seems clear. Just as our generation began to ignore
newspapers and magazines as sources of news in favor of TV
(interestingly, though, radio audiences have increased over this time),
today’s younger viewers are leaving TV for the Internet as a place for
news and information. Local news shows are beginning to lose their
audience; recent surveys put the loss at 40% among younger viewers.
So the progression from newspapers to TV to online is accelerating.
It took nearly 50 years to establish and maintain the hegemony of TV
over news dissemination, especially among the cherished 20- to
49-year-old age group, but the dominance of the Internet may occur in
less than half that time.
Yankelovich surveys show that people feel there is ’too much
information’ and they wish it could be limited to what they need. People
want to be ’quickly and painlessly’ made more knowledgeable and better
So far, there is no way to do that, but the Internet offers ways to seem
better informed - or at least to know more. Internet chat rooms offer
infinitely more up-to-the-minute information than either network anchors
or press columnists used to provide. Alas, it’s almost all wrong.
But customers, nevertheless, will be in charge of the business
relationship, whether through individually customized news summaries -
from ’All the News That’s Fit to Print’ to ’All the News I Think I Need’
- or simply by ignoring the ’gatekeeper-anchors’ and using one’s own
access to the news and news sources.
Either way, Hoog concluded, it calls for more PR recruits skilled in
psychology, marketing and statistics, and fewer in communications and
traditional journalism. Ladies and gentlemen, start polishing those