PR awaits tablet-only media opportunities

If and when News Corporation pulls up the curtain on its iPad-only digital newspaper The Daily, the medium could become both a new model for journalism and a platform for PR.

If and when News Corporation pulls up the curtain on its iPad-only digital newspaper The Daily, the medium could become both a new model for journalism and a platform for PR.

“From my point of view I think it represents a tremendous opportunity,” says Hill & Knowlton VP Eric Glass. "What we've seen digital content do, and digital technology do, is create more opportunities for a diversity of content."

The scope of The Daily has yet to be seen, but in true digital and iPad fashion it's likely to have heavy graphic and interactive features, say PR pros. Over the last few weeks reports have surfaced claiming its unveiling would happen this past week in San Francisco.  It's rumored that News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch has poured millions of dollars into the project and poached a number of top-tier journalists from other news organizations for the publication.

The launch of The Daily, however, seems to have been put on ice for a little while longer.  Even so, PR pros know it could be a game changer for their profession, and recognize they must prepare to utilize such a publication.

"The Daily is going to be much more visual. I think the use of video and graphics is going to be much more important,” says Sabrina Horn, CEO and founder of the digital communications and interactive design agency Horn Group.

“It will probably give us a wonderful opportunity to keep you more interested in features and stories that go deeper, and have more depth of content than simply what, when, where, and why,” says Horn. “Telling more complicated tech stories, like cloud computing, could translate well to tell it more visually.”

It also may represent an opportunity to reach a new audience; one that has embraced the iPad as their preferred computing and entertainment device.

“While the audience is relatively small, the growth is exponential,” says Glass. “So the PR perspective, again, I see it as opportunistic.  I think there will be a very big audience for this.”

In its latest earnings statement, Apple said it sold 7.3 million iPads in the last quarter, about a million more than industry analysts had predicted. In May of last year, Yahoo published its own iPad user analysis and found that the typical iPad user is in the 35-44 age group, affluent, and men users outnumbered women nearly 2 to 1.

To be fair, a lot has changed since then, especially in the digital and greater computer tablet space. Still, Horn speculates many iPad owners are climbing the corporate ladder and are in mid-to-executive level positions in their career.

And it's that audience that brands want to reach, especially technology brands appealing to an early-adopter, tech savvy audience.

For now, “it's really specific to the technology industry that needs to reach CMOs and CIOs,” says Horn. “The sooner you get on the band wagon, the sooner you will grab that audience's attention.”

To get on the band wagon, though, you must be ready to do so, and in the digital world things move fast. Glass and his Hill & Knowlton colleagues experiment with iPad and tablet apps and explore the variety of ways they can be used in PR.

“We are paying close attention. Ultimately our clients are going to say ‘okay, well there's The Daily, do we need stories on The Daily?'” says Glass. “The answer is ‘yes.'”

To demonstrate its digital, app prowess, in October the Horn Group launched its own iPhone app.

Rhonda Sanderson, CEO and founder of PR agency for small businesses and franchises Sanderson & Associates, has seen new PR avenues before.  Sitting in her PR office in 1983 she received a tiny postcard one day.

“It was announcing a new newspaper, and it was the whole layout for USA Today,” says Sanderson. “I said to my boss this is going to big; quick, fast, and colorful stories.”

Sanderson admittedly loves her iPad. That postcard she received years ago reminds her of the forthcoming arrival of Murdoch's iPad newspaper The Daily. It's “the dawning of a new entity, the dawning of a new thing,” she says.

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