Technology creates sea change in media creation, distribution

We continue to progress through a once-in-a-generation technology shift in media production, consumption, and sharing thanks to society's accelerating digital makeover.

We continue to progress through a once-in-a-generation technology shift in media production, consumption, and sharing thanks to society's accelerating digital makeover.

For anyone in this business, the shift is both amazing and disorienting. Amazing in that the shift creates almost unlimited opportunity to communicate in new ways. Disorienting in that both personally and professionally, the lack of limits and understood standards adds layers of complexity to the way we operate.

As we speak, entrepreneurially minded people are collectively creating new media and engagement models, one innovation at a time. The list of contributors is long and vast and one that blurs the rules many of us are accustomed to working by.

The examples are there for all to see. Look no further than BuzzFeed and Huffington Post to understand the new social dynamics of content creation and distribution. Or how an editorial overhaul at Forbes, now with 1,000 contributors strong, repositions a legacy media brand as an information network that also happens to publish a magazine.

These are a few examples of moves the entrepreneurially minded are making now.

If you don't fully grasp how fundamental this transition is, consider this. According to Pew Research, the online news audience continues to swell. The top 25 sites saw a 17% increase in annual online traffic.

Follow the money though and a different picture comes into focus. A Paid Content report listed the 50 most successful digital media companies based on revenue earned from digital products. Only three media companies made the top 10: Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and Reed Elsevier. Only two news publishers were in the top 50: Gannett and the UK's Daily Mail and General Trust. The rest are a wide array of technology companies, agencies, and organizations.

Technology has rearranged the media industry chessboard in a very short period of time. If you are a PR leader, your job is to make sure your team falls on the right side of a widening digital divide between innovators and procrastinators. That divide will become serious business in 2013 so it is a priority to have invention and reinvention as the centerpiece of your strategy.

Also, operate with eyes wide open to change around you. It is abundant, highly disruptive, and, if approached opportunistically, an avenue for unprecedented innovation and leadership potential.

Chris Perry is president of digital at Weber Shandwick.

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