Saturday, November 26, 2005

Is Press Relations going to change or die?


I have been collecting information about the fall in traditional media fortunes for a while. Against continued economic growth, traditional media is not having a good time.

Jennifer McClure reports that TV in the USA is having a torrid time. Perhaps 'I told you so' is a bit trite but, the reality seems to be there. Joel Cere's Report on Sir Martin Sorrell's IABC comments show other mistrust in the future of traditional media. The CEO of BBDO has been quoted as saying mobile telephones and other devices will soon become more important for marketing than traditional television. In Radio Gcap is indicative and has announced a strategic review as it looks to counter a difficult advertising market. In a trading update in September, it said like-for-like revenues for the first six months of the year were down nine per cent.

Its not just in the US, Media group Chrysalis is heaving as well. Media Week is offers no comfort either.

Media people, responding to a Media Life poll two weeks ago, are decidedly nervous about where ad spending is headed--and none too hopeful.

Television is on the brink of a major sea-change. People are concurrent-connecting to a range of media. Internet television is changing the nature of TV and a compelling argument is offered by companies like Brightcove who raised $16.2 million from, among others America Online, Inc., IAC/InterActiveCorp, The Hearst Corporation, and Allen & Company.

Fitch Ratings has lowered Dow Jones & Company, Inc.'s (Dow Jones) issuer default rating. The rating action reflects the continued pressure an its core print publishing businesses. Importantly, Fitch believes that Dow Jones' content-loyal subscriber base, and success at developing a paid on-line platform provides some insulation for the company compared with other industry participants facing change. Total output of paper for the press continues to decline. Newsprint has been in decline for four years. Major paper producers are loosing their glitter.

Harold M. Cody is not optimistic about newsprint. Like the music industry, there is a problem with monoculture.

Journalism is aware of the issues but the traditional medium remains in a state of denial. I suspect that David Warsh has it right. The relationship between news and newspapers is well argued in The Editors blog. It also has a clear view about the importance of the Internet for traditional newsprint.

The buzz about alternative forms of communication is everywhere From the Wall Street Journal interview with Rupert Murdoch who argues that on-line advertising is one of the few areas growing rapidly (that is why he has bought MySpace, a site which attracts hundreds of thousands of teens posting pictures and information about themselves) and Razil Suarez comments on how cost effective on-line advertising can be.

But, ABC figures reveal that the consumer magazine market has increased 6.4 per cent year-on-year in the number of copies actively purchased. Total average net circulation per issue has also experienced a significant uplift of 10.5 per cent to 62.5m. Consumer magazines have now moved into their sixth year of continuous volume and value growth.

So what is going on. The evidence of change is far too pervasive to be ignored.

One might ask Sir Alan Sugar or Elizabeth Murdoch They have strong views about advertising and the media.

There seem to be two things happening at once. Traditional advertising is missing the point and the Mass Media is no longer mass.

The media, in fact most communication, is niche and becoming more niche. More TV stations (many on the Internet and much more to come); Lots of radio (available on the Internet); newspapers in decline (except on the Internet); More magazine titles (but much more niche consumer focus – and here is a warning – with lots of mass circulation and fantastic magazine style blogs).

The advertising industry and the Poster Competition (sorry - Marketing) industry are very old fashioned. Even the concepts are dated. The four 'P's (product, place, price and promotion) are no longer relevant. Products and services are designed, developed and produced using networks. The biggest shopping mall in the UK is the Internet (£18 trillion this year). Price is negotiated (on-line comparisons is an example). Then we get to promotion predicated on TV, Radio and Press advertisements (where there is no interactive capability to buy.

The Mass Media as we know it has to change. We are prepared to buy news but do not want to have to buy the advertisements at the same time.

Unless the mass media changes, advertisers will flee into the arms of more effective consumer interactions. In fact they may not even be advertisements as we know it.

So lets here it for press relations. This has to morph into a niche business too. The call centres that are currently called PR consultancies will have to change and the practice of public relations has to be more in tune with a wide range of alternative, people-centric, communications channels and that means being alert and aware to the significance of empathy and demands of relationship management.

Picture from Ghost Writer Central