Currently there are 20 national newspaper titles and an approximately equal number of significant regional titles whose daily need for content can be matched with well-crafted publicity campaigns. Analysts agree that both numbers are likely to be dramatically slashed by mergers and closures caused by plunging advertising revenues and long-term changes in media consumption.
Titles such as The Independent, The Express and The Star (Daily and Sunday in each case) now look imminently vulnerable. Some City doom-mongers even predict the merger and/or ultimate demise of the offline Mirror and Telegraph national titles.
Into the vacuum is stepping the one organisation that remains immune to any vulgar financial considerations of actually earning money: the BBC. While ITV cuts back, BBC local news continues to flourish. The corporation's plans to lavish millions pounds of its constant flow of licence-payers' money on setting up video-based news websites in 60 regions of the UK has already come under attack as an abuse of its position from independent regional media owners.
Publicists should share their concerns. An increasingly centralised and monopolistic provider will inevitably restrict our ability to deliver creative campaigns across such a wide base of media.
The BBC, free of any imperative to compete in the world of advertising, can be notoriously disdainful of editorial content driven by publicists.
Optimists will correctly point to the additional opportunities for delivering publicity campaigns online. Certainly it is a vibrant and growing medium.
But generally, online delivers a less certain demographic than offline. It also remains a less attractive measurable to many clients who cherish the broadcast clip or print cutting above the online offering.
Successful publicity flourishes in diverse media, and shrinking media are a threat to us all.
- Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.