The scale of investment by traditional media owners in broadcast content on the web has been one of the most dramatic developments in the media over the past few years. For the world of corporate and brand communications it has also been one of the most baffling.
Much talk in the corporate world has focused on engaging with the blogosphere and the importance of getting to grips with social media. While these are undeniably important issues, few brands have devoted much time to developing coherent strategies for engaging with online content created by traditional media owners like the BBC, ITV and newspapers, all of which are now capturing significant online audiences. The opportunity this represents for brands should not be overlooked, argue broadcast PR specialists.
The Daily Telegraph began broadcasting video content in October last year with Telegraph TV through a partnership with ITN. It now boasts 90,000 video downloads a week and almost 10 million unique users.
And The Sun currently offers its readers (or possibly its ‘viewers’) TV-quality video over 50 different channels on its website. Being owned by News Corporation, the site has access to TV content such as Fox News, Sky News and Fox World News. But The Sun also generates its own video footage, marking a successful transition from publisher to broadcaster.
Over the summer viewers could watch anything from Prince Harry’s tribute to his mother Princess Diana and video of UK troops pulling out of Basra, to vignettes of busty young women discussing their moral dilemmas in Deidre’s Video Casebook.
So are newspapers like The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, newspapers or broadcasters?
Sun Online editor Pete Picton (r) says: ‘The view here is that it’s all about reach, on mobile, in print and online. That’s the advantage we have over other websites. Newspapers are great when you’re on the road, mobile is ideal when you’re in the pub at night and the web is what people access during lunchtime at work. We have to be strong in all three.’
Follow the reader
Most UK newspapers now produce broadcast content for their websites, both audio and video. The Sun’s strategy, like that of many newspapers, is to break out of the morning slot when readers consume their paper with their breakfast or on the bus to work and to follow them wherever they are during the day.
The broadsheets are no different in pursuing this strategy. Rhidian Wynn-Davies, The Daily Telegraph’s consulting editor, says that the lion’s share of investment is being funnelled towards its website rather than the newspaper.
‘We’re investing heavily in video,’ he says. ‘Only recently we appointed a new video editor from the BBC.’
Inevitably, naysayers hail such developments as the death of newspaper publishing. But Wynn-Davies points out that both media serve different purposes and neither is seen as more important when it comes to news delivery.
‘This dichotomy between print and online journalism doesn’t wash with us,’ he says. ‘The two different media should complement each other and cross-market each other. It’s about delivering content to readers and website users when they need it. The morning newspaper is still highly treasured by us and our readers. But they [readers] want more.’.
Broadcasters take a similar view. Jeff Henry (r), director of consumer at ITV, says ITV.com is growing in importance as a new channel for viewers to interact with content. But beyond that, it represents a change in the way viewers relate to the brand.
‘Our online presence can be viewed as simply another channel, and given its potential power for interaction with the individual, it allows us to both open a new conversation directly with them and in turn offer advertisers the opportunity to capitalise on this new relationship,’ says Henry.
When blogs and forums first grew to prominence some years ago, communicators were largely concerned with the damage they potentially posed to corporate reputation. In recent years, many new techniques have been developed to turn threats into advantages and the ability to use the web to broadcast content is one of them. Indeed, the web is becoming much more of an opportunity, particularly as traditional media owners look to develop compelling broadcast content, says Howard Kosky, managing director of markettiers4dc. But that requires the PR industry to change its view of traditional media, he believes.
‘Instead of viewing newspapers purely as print publications, see them as a media owner with various platforms,’ says Kosky.
‘PR people don’t struggle to understand how to approach radio or TV. Everyone simply uses that format. And now that The Daily Telegraph also makes a TV show it is just about appreciating these are no longer linear platforms,’ he adds.
Where much of the change has taken place, however, is in the way journalists view the relationship between the news agenda and content. Newspaper editors no longer decide the news agenda, layout and position of stories in the paper in isolation. They also need to consider the best platform for delivery.
The Sun’s Pete Picton says there are ground rules in how each story is presented across each of the newspaper’s three platforms.
‘A great centre-spread works best in the newspaper. With mobile you have greater immediacy. Video works best online. That said, a great story works across all three,’ says Picton.
The web is also providing an instant feedback from readers on the stories that create the most interest, and this plays a role in news agendas too.
The Telegraph’s Wynn-Davies says: ‘Editorial judgments now take place in a three-dimensional world and we make them on an hourly basis. We project data on the most popular stories online per day, per week and per month onto a big screen in the newsroom. That data helps to inform the editorial agenda for the paper but it doesn’t dictate it. The data is a useful toolbox.’
So as the traditional media moves into a new era of delivering broadcast content online, the PR industry might well find itself working with familiar media outlets but providing content in slightly less familiar formats.
ONLINE BROADCAST TECHNIQUES TOOLBOX
Blogs / Vlogs
Blogs are an online diary. The most trusted are those written by bloggers who defend their independence fiercely. Vlogs, or Video Blogs, are video diaries published online. Amateurs make up the majority of vloggers who post entertaining content online on daily life or subjects of personal interest. With minimal equipment like a website, digital video camera and high-speed internet connection, anyone can become a vlogger.
A new opportunity exists for brands to create their own broadcast content online. Examples might include a fitness TV series by a sports brand or a cookery programme by a sauce brand. The value of this technique is the power of content to engage consumers. Brands control the content and the message by going direct to the consumer. The danger lies in turning off viewers with overt commercial promotion.
All media outlets require editorial, so this remains the cornerstone of PR . The only change in recent years has been the format of editorial content. Pre-recorded interviews and other audio packages are invaluable to generating radio coverage, as is video for TV. These are equally valuable to a radio or TV station broadcasting online.
The phrase has come to mean an audio or video file available for download. In truth, it should only be applied to a file downloaded via an RSS feed and then transferred to a portable device for remote listening. Advantages are simplicity and the fact those who have downloaded the file are interested in the content in the first place. This makes it potentially more powerful and less wasteful than mainstream TV where viewers ignore content that doesn’t engage them.
The best known social networks are MySpace, Bebo and Facebook - online virtual communities of shared interests (classmates, gardeners, expatriates living in Saudi Arabia). They provide various ways to interact, including chat, messaging, email, video, file sharing, blogging and discussion groups to name a few. Brands can create their own social networks and communicate with these groups but need to do so in a sensitive way, offering authoritative information when appropriate.
An online chat show, typically broadcast in real time, where people chat to a main or guest spokesperson. They are moderated by controlling which participants are allowed to chat and by quickly ejecting perpetrators of any undesired language or behaviour. The brand can control the messaging being delivered and introduce branded elements. But again, overt promotion can turn off participants. The show itself can become a hook to generate further coverage as websites are keen on the interactive element for their users. Once finished the webchat is made available to read or watch on-demand as additional site content.