It is impossible to argue that the web is not in control in today’s world. Regardless of age or technical capabilities, there is a general acceptance that everything is shifting to on-line and almost everything ends up on the web. This has been at the forefront of many debates on the positives and negatives of the world wide web for quite some time. The topic of privacy is always an issue in these debates. Nowadays, as we become more accustomed with social mediums, we are becoming increasingly more comfortable with opening up our lives to cyberspace. With this transparency comes great risk and leaves our private lives very vulnerable to strangers. So how much is too much? Recently there has been controversy about smart TV’s being able to record your conversations as well as the whole Facebook messenger debacle that was recently being talked about on social media. Pipl.com search engine is an eye opening experience about how much of your life is really on display for the whole world to see.
Nowadays the notion of old media and new media are hot topics in many professions but especially PR. The web is no longer this alien phenomenon, but an integral part of our everyday lives. Everything can be accessed on the web, be it recipes, tips or news. This rapid development poses a difficulty for PR professionals and challenges them to decide on where to place their over all focus. So it causes PR professionals to wonder what takes most prevalence, new or old media and the impact new media has on the traditional media and the PR industry. Through this articles, an analysis of various components will be undertaken. These include how ‘new’ media differs from ‘old’ media, the role and impact of ‘citizen journalism’ on the practice of PR, the impact of the web on traditional mass media and the nature of new media and its impact on news cycles and how we consume news. Through the research of these different variables, the motion of web being in control, will certainly be carried.
How ‘new’ media differs from ‘old’ media
The heavy reliance and quick shift to new media causes us to wonder about the differences between the two. In terms of television for example, news broadcasts would be aired a couple of times every evening and people tuned in in their droves. Yet new media provides on-line access to news stories 24 hours a day. Old media is scheduled and also limited. It isn’t feesable for TVs broadcasts to happen at three am but it is very easy to find breaking news on the Internet. There is also this notion of the long tail, where, longevity is now a factor from the development of new media. If something goes up on the web, it is there forever.
With newspapers, one can choose to throw it away or recycle it, but news on-line is permanent. According to the Pew Research Centre, there is a different stream of information available through new media. Certain funny videos or celebrity gossip for instance, are not something you will see in traditional media but are very easily accessible through Facebook and Twitter. New media is also more visual than old media. Newspapers and leaflets etc have a limit on the amount of images they can display yet, mediums such as Instagram and snapchat are highly visual and can have unlimited content. PR professional are faced with the decision of whether or not to implement these avenues into pr campaigns and also to gauge what types of new media are suitable for particular clients. Like tabloids and broadsheets, not every platform is suitable for every client, therefore a good PR strategy is needed to tease out the differences between old and new media.
The role and impact of ‘citizen journalism’ on the practice of PR
Citizen journalism , although becoming more common in the last decade, has become hugely popular over the last five years. This is aided by new media tools such as blogging and instagram, where ordinary people can report on current affairs. Today it is believed that anyone can be a journalist once in the right place with the right tools. Take the 2004 Tsunami for example, news broadcasters in the west were unable to access the affected area so relied on amateur footage from tourists on their video cameras. This footage was vital for those of us in Ireland who wanted to learn of the natural disaster. See below an example of the amateur footage from the Asian Tsunami 2004.
As well as capturing footage or major life events, citizen journalism also comes into effect when advertising products or services. Fashion and beauty bloggers such as so-sue-me and JustJordan are brand ambassadors and are given merchandise by companies to promote them to their followers. These are ordinary people who don’t necessarily have to have the skills or qualifications to be fashion designers or make up artists, but have influence. These are role models for those seeking advice and tips when it comes to buying a product or availing of a service. Regardless of their experience people do listen and are influenced by them. Transparency also becomes a factor here as these individuals will review a product be it good or bad, therefore it is wise that a company opens itself to customer queries or complaints they may have. It is very difficult to behave unethically and get away with it today, when any ordinary individual can post a photo of an inedible burger from McDonalds or unclean toilets at the train station. Businesses need to be open and honest because if they are hiding something, chances are it will end up on the web. PR professionals need to seriously factor in transparency when carrying out campaigns for their client.
This topic of fashion bloggers also challenges the age old notion or PR professionals needing a strong relationship with journalists. More time is being invested in building up a rapport with these bloggers than with the editor of the local paper, simply because more people are spending their time reading blogs than newspapers. This of course is not to suggest that PRO’s should cut ties with journalists altogether, but enhance their skill set by expanding the connections they make.If a client comes to them wanted their business improved, using fashion bloggers may be something to consider using in a PR campaign. The term ‘the unseen hand’ is also being challenged by this new development. In their book, ‘Online Public Relations’, Philips and Young argue that until recently the PR professional would take the approach of staying out of the public eye and journalists would agreeably quote a ‘spokesperson’ for breaking news. This can no longer be the case as it is not just journalists that PRO’s deal with now, but members of the general public. This places a shift on the role of the public relations professional, perhaps forcing the ‘unseen’ hand to indeed become visible.
The impact of the web on traditional mass media
According to an article in the Irish Times, the sale of newspapers has dropped 7% since the end of last year alone. On-line sources such as breakingnews.ie or the Journal.ie have allowed easy access to current affairs and news stories for their readers. One can simply be eating lunch or watching TV while scrolling through news headlines on their handheld tablet or phone. It is the ease of access that has caused new media to sore and traditional media to fade into the background. An article from the University of Malaysia challenges the importance of traditional media regardless of the growing popularity of the web. Businesses such as the hotel industry still have large budgets for print media. This is to cater for those digital immigrants who will still avidly turn on their radio and open their newspaper. Speaking of radio, the University of Malaysia argues that radio never replaced TV or newspapers, so why should new media?
PR professionals need not dismiss traditional media but must have the necessary skill set to cater for all streams of media suitable for the client. The web has certainly impacted on traditional media in a financial way. This had led to the introduction of pay walls for viewing on-line newspapers. Of course with changes comes public backlash, with many people criticising the charge for something that was once free.
— ToJournalism (@tojournalism) March 25, 2015
As well as having to charge for on-line content, newspapers are still reliant on advertising and good stories. This is where PR skills are crucial. Public relations officers have a duty to fill those newspapers, especially now that there is more of a chance of their story being printed.
The nature of new media and its impact on news cycles and how we consume news.
New media is fast and ever-changing. be it through ones laptop, tablet or mobile, everything from buying tickets to booking a holiday can be done by the click of a button. New media has changed our perception of information. We have become so accustomed to having instant access to content, that today it is absurd to not have fast internet connections or WiFi, whereas ten years ago owning a desktop computer was a major breakthrough. Young children are enthralled in iPads rather than playing outside with their friends. New media has altered how we communicate with one another as many hide behind usernames to troll another person and our social life and personality is quantifiable by likes and shares of our Facebook posts. This is the reality of new media and the rise of the generation of digital natives. Consuming news has never been easier for people. One can now sit reading e-mails on a laptop, while having an iPad or mobile in one hand checking the latest headlines. Again transparency is paramount as the web is certainly taking control. Today news reaches us within seconds so any misgivings of a company have the potential to become viral within minutes. Philips and Young discuss the danger of the long tail for PR professionals trying to repair the damaged reputation of a client. Companies pasts will stay on the internet forever, it is down to transparency, ethical behaviour and good a good PR skill set to help sustain a company within this world of new media, in which the web is certainly in charge.