Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How the internet permeates all things PR

Mark Page, a partner at the management consultants A T Kearney, said: "Total U.K. Internet traffic is expected to increase by an average of 37 percent every year between 2010 and 2015."

Against a backdrop of shrinking economies, this sounded pretty impressive.

He also said: "Traffic on mobile networks is growing 84 percent year over year and is expected to account for 11 percent of total traffic by 2015."


This would indicate that a lot of people and organisations use the internet a lot. Indeed, according to Page, the U.K. Internet ecosystem was worth £82 billion a year in 2012, with mobile connections accounting for 16 percent. If this is true, a very large part of the economy is dependent on the internet.

Every £1 spent on Internet connectivity—mobile and fixed broadband networks—currently supports £5 in wider revenue for the U.K. economy. The value chain is 2.6 percent of the country's GDP, while e-commerce is a further 3.1 percent. In addition, the United Kingdom has a much stronger business-to-consumer e-commerce sector than other countries. The numbers escalate so fast that you would need to look them up to be current on the fist day this book was printed.

In the year of the Olympiad, the internet value chain was 2.6 percent of the UK's GDP, while e-commerce was a further 3.1 percent. 

To put this into some kind of perspective travel and tourism, communication and financial services' contribution to GDP in the UK was about £100 billion in 2011, or 6.7% each. This compares 2.3% for automotive manufacturing, 1.9% for mining and 4.1% for chemicals.

The internet is one of the big hitters in the UK economy and is growing fast.

Ericsson's second Traffic and Market Report predicts data traffic – as opposed to voice calls – will grow 15 times over by 2017, by which time 85% of humanity will live within range of a mobile broadband signal and there will be more mobile devices than people.

This means that the internet part of the economy will outpace tourism and banking any day now.

For real digital specialists, total U.K. internet traffic is forecast to grow from a monthly volume of 621 petabytes (PB) in 2010 (equivalent to roughly 41 million music albums downloaded each day) to 3,000 PB in 2015.

AT Kearney note that U.K. Internet value chain makes up a significantly larger proportion of GDP than the global norm, while the value added by e-commerce also constitutes a larger share of GDP, especially for business-to-consumer (B2C) activity.

The data also suggests that the UK is good at creating content and poor at providing services.

In the midst of all of this is Public Relations. A career almost completely mediated by what is happening online. 

A major shift happened in 2009 when, for the first time, people globally were using their mobile devices more for data transfer than they were for voice communication. Chetan Sharma Consulting showed that the mobile had become the most personal  internet enabled computer.

In personal terms the internet is having considerable impact.

In 2011, 19 million households (77%)  in Great Britain had an Internet connection.  There were still 5.7 million households without an Internet connection. Half of those without a household Internet connection said they didn't have one because they “don’t need the Internet”.

Broadband has now almost entirely replaced dial-up Internet in the UK, with 93 per cent of households using broadband. (Office of National Statistics 2012 http://www.ons.gov.uk). Half the population uses Facebook and the UK represents over 10% of all internet users in Europe (http://www.internetworldstats.com)

Internet sales values  in March 2012 increased by 15.2 per cent compared with March 2011 and are estimated to account for 8.5 per cent of all retail sales values excluding automotive fuel.

PR activity online is now charged with helping organisation reach out to get a bigger slice of the growing environment.

Childnet International report that the internet and mobile technology are increasingly important to the educational and social lives of children, and are becoming a part of children’s identity. As one young person said to Childnet at one of its recent focus group meetings, “Take away my mobile phone and you take away a part of me!”

The internet is also changing how people's brains work. Sparrow et al (2011) report on findings showing that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves. In other words 'don't remember it, Google it!'

The power of audiovisual expression in video games took a dramatic leap forward with the arrival of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Gamers are being treated to gaming experiences with unprecedented realism and power (Square Enics web site http://www.square-enix.com/na/careers/getech/) . Video game visuals already equal or surpass the quality of those in feature films, requiring even more advanced game development pipelines.
For PR practice, this means that there is a need for a profession to adapt and adopt practices that are not as old fashioned as Facebook, even Pinterest but of a semantic web challenged by Googles Knowledge Graph.

Some people find the incusion of the internet into the daily lives of such a high proportion of the population dangerous.

Nicholas Carr (Carr 2012) sums it up like this "People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner. People who are continually distracted by emails, updates and other messages understand less than those who are able to concentrate. And people who juggle many tasks are often less creative and less productive than those who do one thing at a time." 

Practitioners need to be aware of such research too.


Page, M 2012 The Internet Economy in the United Kingdom http://www.atkearney.com/index.php/Publications/the-internet-economy-in-the-united-kingdom.html accessed May 2012

Global Mobile Data Market Update 2009, Chetan Sharma Consulting. Available online: http://chetansharma.com/globalmarketupdate2009.htm (accessed on 6 May 2012).

Components of the UK internet value chain.  http://www.atkearney.com/images/global/articles/FG-The-Internet-Economy-in-the-United-Kingdom-8.png  accessed June 2012
Ericsson Traffic and Market Report June 2012 http://www.ericsson.com/traffic-market-report accessed June 2012

Childnet International Intenet Addiction http://www.childnet-int.org/downloads/factsheet_addiction.pdf accessed May 2012.

Betsy Sparrow, B. Liu, J. Wegner, D. M. 2011 Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips Science August 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6043 pp. 776-778

(Carr, N, 2012 The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains W. W. Norton & Company)

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