Man under newspapers

As another year, indeed another decade, draws to a close, one question remains the same – how will the media and the communications business fair in 2011? 2010 was certainly a landmark year in many different ways… as the economy turned the corner, for the most part anyway, and the slow recovery began, the debate about the media and about PR’s role took quite a few interesting twists and turns.

Firstly, the iPad of course, established a completely new medium for news and content.  There was a lot of excitement, and some derision,  early on about what the iPad meant for the media… but the general consensus now seems to be that it is indeed a game changer for the media industry.

The trick is getting people to pay for the content, and that may be doable, but at a cost.  A recent survey by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) at the University of Missouri determined that people would be willing to pay for news content on their iPad, but it would be instead of, rather than as well as, their print subscriptions.

This is why 2011 will be about offering something more than simply an iPad version of publications.  The new CNN iPad App attempts this, going heavy on video and sharing capabilities, with an additional Featured tab that delivers a flavor of news that is not necessarily tied to the immediate news agenda.  The other big players in news Apps have yet to break out, including the NYTimes for iPad,  Reuters News Pro for iPad and BBC News (better on the iTouch than iPad to be fair).

Perhaps the most interesting new news apps are Flipboard – which mashes together newsfeeds with photos, twitter and facebook in one nice interface, ProPublica – which providces less frequent but higly investigative insigth into key global happenings, and France 24 – a 24 hour news channel that mixes live video with the latest news headlines, business news and sports. And look our for Rupert Murdoch‘s new iPad only publication – The Daily – due to launch on Janury 17th 2011 – priced at 0.99 per issue (i.e. per day) it will be interesting to see whether this is a business model that will stick.

And of course there will be a flurry of other tablets hitting the market next year, many powered by Android and offering Apple somewhat stiffer competition to anything it has epxerienced thus far in the world of tablets.

Overall, it will be fascinating to see how these Apps change the way that companies communicate with their influencers and the opportunities that this presents for communications professionals.

The second major development during 2010 is that Facebook changed the rules of the Internet somewhat. In 2010, Facebook set out to socialize its own brand online and succeeded spectacularly – as this Washington Post page illustrates. The net effect, if you like, was that by March 2010, Facebook surpassed Google as the most visited site on the web, and, by November 2010, Facebook accounted for nearly 1 in 4 page views in the U.S. (thanks SWMS!).

The way that web-based newspapers evolve their relationship with Facebook will be an interesting trend for 2011, along with how Facebook diversifies from ‘Like’ and “Share’ options. And the opportunities for PR professionals to leverage these and new tools to improve the visibility of client’s news and progress will be interesting to monitor.

Thirdly, and finally, mobile really came of age in 2010. To really bring this to life, the chart below shows just how rapid mobile internet adoption has been when measure in quarters, relative to desktop internet access.

So 2011 promises to be the year that online video breaks out and will be an interesting area to watch. The combination of device proliferation and soaring mobile broadband, means it is going to be all about news and video on the move over the coming months and years. What does all this mean for the communications industry?

The challenge that still remains is to find ways to interact with client’s target audiences, whether they are on the Web, Facebook, Twitter or an iPad, as audiences continue their journey toward less static consumption of information and more engagement and participation.

But the audience is only part of the picture, focusing exclusively on that aspect is going to lead some of the industry up the proverbial garden path. It is clients’ business objectives are the real critical element.

So, the PR and communications industry needs to tread the fine line between creating new innovative and exciting approaches that push the envelope and generate new fee streams, while making sure that what they are doing is actually helping the clients with their end game. After all, this is about making clients famous, not agencies or individuals. And if you ask some of our clients, we’re certainly billed as one of the best B2B tech PR agencies in the world.


This post was first published by Martin Jones on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.