The Web Changes News and PR forever
‘Web 2.0’, ‘Social media’, Insta Famous’, ‘Content Creator’, ‘Blogger’…
… Buzz words associated with the phenomenal rise of social media and Web based activity, witnessed globally and nationally. We have become a species of snapping and sharing our dinners and documenting the good, bad and severely inappropriate via social media. We have become photographers, influencers, models and respected commentators, all thanks to a status/photo/video update. The Web therefore has an impact and persuasion over the news and how we access it; perhaps even how we as consumers and creators, shape it. But have we done it, have we as normal and everyday citizens, broken the established iron gates of traditional mass media and news outlets?
To provide scope of the Web and social media, in terms of popularity and user participation, let’s look at some statistics:
- In Ireland, there are 2.4 million active Facebook users each month
- Ireland Tweets 1 million times per day.
- 92% of Irish journalists are on Twitter
- 58% of Irish journalists use social media for sourcing news leads.
(Figures sourced from ‘Irish Consumers on Social Media – The Stats’ – 2015)
It is irrefutable that traditional news sources are in decline. The OECD (2010: 17) notes,
“The news gathering and distribution process is undergoing deep changes. In many OECD countries, both the number of physical newspaper titles, newspaper circulation and readership numbers are mostly falling… Today younger readers are mostly attracted to the Internet as a source of news and information.”
The Web is changing news and PR forever, but at what cost?
That is the cost, for both old and new media. In terms of the Web changing news and PR forever. It is interesting that the Web and new media are facing the same issue that was associated with traditional media and established news outlets. Citizen journalism certainly empowers and propels the way news cycles turn, but authenticity and sources remain a fundamental issue.
While journalists and news sources have faced criticism about integrity and genuineness, the PR profession has endured similar, if not more. Journalists and media outlets shape the news, but PR practitioners have to influence and persuade such players. The traditional gatekeepers of the news arena for PR practitioners are no longer only journalists, it is also the colossal World Wide Web.
This should be viewed as an opportunity and not a further threat to the PR industry. Anyone can post a Tweet, but it takes reputation, accuracy and solid information to get notice from the masses. The Web changes PR because it provides us with an invaluable opportunity to not only have unlimited access to information, but to also have the chance to project a voice that does not necessarily require validation or promotion by journalists and interested parties. Caution is advised though, not to solely replace journalistic endorsement, with that of the blogger. Not all bloggers are experts, and not all experts are bloggers. Therefore, regardless of who the sender is, the message still needs to contain integrity and intelligence.
PR practitioners should not be afraid of the Web changing PR, they should take it as the opportunity that has been desired for so long – To openly engage in an unlimited and wide ranging way, without boundaries or gatekeepers. We need to become resourceful and proactive with the wealth of knowledge that is literally at our fingertips. A mix of old and new media enables us to reach wider audiences in more engaging and enduring ways, in tandem with maintaining integrity and accuracy. Old media has to evolve, while new media has to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor, therefore in the future, the two are inextricably linked… One cannot survive without the other, and journalists and PR practitioners need to recognise that.