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5 media trends to watch for

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

Leyl Master Black is Managing Director at Sparkpr, a leading US PR agency. Leyl has more than 15 years experience with communications programs for emerging technology companies and has written this thought piece:

The past decade has been rough on the media sector. As media consumption has shifted online, many print publications have struggled to adjust their editorial approach, advertising infrastructure and revenue models to accommodate a rapidly changing readership. During this time, quite a few online-only news sites also entered the market. With no legacy advertising infrastructure to deal with, lower overhead costs and startup agility, these new competitors began to attract viewers — and ad dollars — from traditional publications. Many publications have had to downsize, and reporters must now cover more beats and file more stories than ever before.

The recent social revolution changed the game again. Our social networks have taken on the role of crowdsourced news editors. Instead of going directly to websites to scan for news, we frequently only see bite-sized news headlines that have been posted or retweeted by our trusted sources. When we do go directly to a site, we’re now relying more on news aggregators such as TechMeme, or getting the scoop on what’s trending from sites such as Tweetbeat.

Today, mobile devices are sparking another big shift in media infrastructure, with the iPad in particular set to become the centerpiece of media strategies for top print publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

As the media changes, so too must the practice of public relations. Here are a few thoughts about changes to ride with:

1. Social sharing of news

In a recent article on, entrepreneur Dan Greenberg asserted that the web has evolved from a network of sites to a network of people. And because you can’t put ads on people, you must now focus on creating content that people will want to consume and share. The same holds true for PR, and in future we will see more PR strategies that put social sharing at the forefront.

News releases will have more attention-grabbing or controversial headlines to drive more retweets. We’ll see more pitches that seek to seed a contrarian view or spark controversy, both of which will have a better chance of being shared than straight news. There will be more aggressive outreach to influencers on Twitter to ask them to tweet about news, and more strategies to provide incentives to tweet or post to Facebook. And PR professionals will be under more pressure to measure program success using social sharing metrics.

2. Increase in “direct editorial”

As media companies overhaul their revenue models, many have moved beyond straightforward banner-style advertising to offer new types of content-driven ad experiences, sponsored content and creative syndication partnerships. This means that the need for content has never been greater. But with staffing levels still low, there will be even more opportunities in the coming year for company execs to contribute their own thought leadership pieces and educational articles to prominent publications.

Just a few years ago, many companies shied away from blogging because it was so difficult to promote the content and actually get people to read it, it’s now easier than ever to promote blog content to a targeted audience through social media. And, the shake-up in the media industry has produced a large number of talented freelance writers to support these efforts.

3. Greater Demand for Exclusives

With breaking news now posting almost instantly online, straight news coverage has become a commodity. When Facebook announces a redesign, you can expect to read similar stories about it on dozens of news sites the minute it hits. Many publications, as well as journalists, are now grappling with how to differentiate their coverage in this environment. Watch closely for publications shifting their editorial approach to find the right niche next year, and adjust your engagement accordingly.

Also look for increasing value being placed on exclusives as a way for journalists to offer a differentiated and unique news product. As more publications request (and even require) exclusive content, reporters will be able to invest more time in doing a “deep dive” for stories, and we’ll likely see an increase in longer, more insightful pieces.

4. Growth in multimedia

Another point of differentiation for publications will be the use of use podcasts and video interviews to complement their print and online stories. Where appropriate, PR professionals should begin to build ideas for podcasts into their pitches to paint a more complete picture of how a story could be rolled out.

Video is also becoming a critical part of many news sites and an important asset for PR to provide to busy reporters, particularly as publications focus on creating visually rich content for devices such as the iPad. In 2011, expect to see more stories that include individual videos or even curated video in a slideshow or mosaic layout, such as this New York Times story about Tufts University applicants submitting YouTube videos as part of the application process.

5. Data, graphics and apps

Relevant stats have always been critical for validating trend stories, and with online survey tools making data gathering easier than ever, many PR pitches are now already accompanied by original research. In 2011, with news outlets hungry for visuals but short on resources, look for the presentation of this data to become more sophisticated, with PR teams working to develop infographics and other visuals to make their data pop. And in our app-happy world, also expect to see a slew of interactive applications to supplement stories, such as this texting and driving game that accompanied a New York Times article on the topic.


About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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