From the editor-in-chief: Influencers usher in the third age of the internet

The era of the influencer is upon us, populated by YouTubers, bloggers and podcasters who are bypassing traditional media filters.

The public relations business is busily adapting to the third age of the internet. Unfortunately I am old enough to have worked through the first two internet revolutions: the explosion of web publishing and email communication from the mid-90s; and the subsequent blogging and social-media developments from the mid-2000s.

This third age is the era of the influencer, the point at which use of, and trust in, traditional media and linear forms of communication is being usurped by the YouTubers, vloggers and podcasters who have become largely disintermediated from the established filters of communication.

Influencers evolve: new research gets inside the minds of the modern media influencers

For September, PRWeek is taking a hard look at this new age: the influencers themselves; the techniques that need to be employed to communicate within this evolving environment; and some of the ethical and regulatory challenges it throws up.

What quickly becomes apparent – alongside the excitement and innovation they exude – is the huge variation in levels of professionalism among these ‘new influencers’, and then there is ‘fake news’.

This also creates questions about their commitment and, ultimately, their longevity. And this is something with which PR professionals need to grapple.

How does one map and verify influence? Does one really need to pay influencers as part of a brand campaign? Or can one employ some level of paid media to integrate with and optimise an essentially earned-media approach?

In our quest to answer these questions, we have had the pleasure to spend time with some inspirational individuals, not least the fitness-to-food phenomenon Joe Wicks and Etihad’s Amina Taher, who has smashed more than one glass ceiling. Taher is tackling influencer patterns head on.

These are the millennials who are rewriting the rules of media and communications as we speak, and with no little success. Indeed, to succeed in this business today, even experienced operators must actively embrace ever-new ways of looking at the world. But, somewhat reassuringly for this writer, even Wicks and Taher still place significant value on more traditional channels and the skills and expertise developed therein.

Danny Rogers is editor-in-chief of PRWeek

Read next: What influencers want (and don't want) from brand tie-ins

Attending our seminar next week? Influencer marketing: quiz the regulators and hear case studies at PRWeek breakfast briefing

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