How Digital Media is Changing the Face of Journalism & PR
Digital Media is Shaking Up Public Relations
Kiwi print media titles are increasingly shifting to a digital platform, shaking up both journalism and public relations in New Zealand, says an industry expert. Former magazine editor and director of Impact PR, Fleur Revell, says that celebrity and technology titles are among the first making the move due to the dynamic nature of their content.
Fashion, beauty, home and lifestyle titles are likely to follow suit soon enough, she says, but because of their focus on high quality, aspirational imagery, their print life will no doubt endure for longer.
The Upside for PR Agencies
Drawing on her journalism and PR experience, Revell anticipates the media move online will raise a number of challenges and advantages for journalism, which will have a spin off effect on public relations agencies.
“The digital space will afford some valuable benefits to PR companies,” she says.
“Firstly, they will enjoy a higher possibility of securing coverage in former print titles, due to the pressure on the media for an ongoing and immediate delivery of information to readers who can have access to their favoured media outlet anytime and anywhere.”
There will also be a lot less pressure on agencies to provide media with the perfect image, which can be hard to source from a client, she says.
“This is not so important if the feature is not on the pages of a glossy magazine where high quality images are a necessity for on-shelf appeal,” Revell explains.
“Of course, this will be a challenge for the media itself, as they will no longer be able to use attractive cover images to drive impulse purchases at the checkout in stores – they will have to achieve brand loyalty to secure visitors to their site. However, for PR clients, it will mean more value for their public relations spend, as well as an inevitably stronger online presence for their brand.”
Quicker Access Means More PR Coverage
PR firms will have quicker and easier access to their clients’ key target markets through online consumer titles, she adds.
“Space will no longer be an issue with publications as it often is in print, because media outlets will be able to post a story online, irrespective of those others they want to run that day,” she says.
The positioning of media online will bear its disadvantages for public relations firms though, Fleur Revell points out.
She explains that there will be a heightened pressure to control coverage and be timelier both in disseminating information and responding to crises with the media move to the digital landscape.
“From a PR perspective, the online space can stir some apprehension from PR firms in that it is a forum which is much more difficult to control. By offering PR material to online media you are opening a client more up to bloggers and various other social media commenting in whatever way they please about a product or service without the habitual approvals process associated with securing print coverage,” Revell says.
“The web environment is largely uncensored, and so it exposes public relations companies to potentially unwanted dialogue around the product or service they are trying to support. This could create an issue which would be harder to manage due to the interactivity and longevity of web comments. Where approvals on copy are concerned – in cases where this is possible – it will also be more difficult for PR agencies to attain these in the time frame necessary for a more dynamic news space.”
With coverage often secured on a basis of exclusivity to an individual media outlet before it is disseminated nationwide, the prominence of online media would make it more difficult to entice media by offering this, says Revell.
“Online reporters would be able to use content within moments of it appearing on the exclusive website it was supplied to, lowering its value as a news article to that publication, and potentially damaging the relationship between the media outlet and the PR team who have not delivered on their promise of exclusivity.”
Paywalls Create Concern for Public Relations
Fleur Revell says not only will online media increase competition in the journalism world due to the restrictions of paywalls, but it will also mean less assurance of the scope of the audience a PR agency will achieve for a client.
“With subscriptions becoming necessary to read some publications online, that will no doubt lead to some readers simply choosing to access the information they’re after elsewhere for free, resulting in a scatter gun effect from PR coverage. Though some publications like The New York Times have overcome this due to their reputability, it could present some problems in confirming the size of the audience targeted.”
Fleur Revell does acknowledge that visitors to digital media are more easily measured than readership for print titles however, where the number of people who read a publication can only ever be measured by an educated guess.
There will also be a place for the “Print Experience”
There will always be the argument that there is a place for print in terms of comfort and traditional engagement with information and entertainment, she says.
“It’s a difference of accessibility and timeliness versus experience. Many of us are much more likely to pour over the day’s news with a cup of a tea in one hand and a newspaper in the other rather than using an iPad or computer,” she says.
“Reading a magazine or newspaper in print instead of online is ritualistic for a number of Kiwis, and for that reason, print media isn’t likely to ever cease to exist overnight.”