This is the second in a series of articles on the future of PR produced by The Roxburgh Group.
Media Watch was good this week. For me, the best moment was when it cut through the legal kerfuffle about the News Corp Australia financial leaks and offered the opinion that newspapers in this country will last as long as King Rupert does. He is 83.
Now consider an imminent future with a lot fewer (paper and ink) newspapers in Australia. Single masthead towns like Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart with no major local newspapers. Only one national newspaper. The first conclusion we can draw is that there will be a flood of highly experienced journalists looking for work.
Will that give content marketing the expertise it needs to attract a sustainable audience? Or will we see new digital publishing ventures like Mumbrella and Business Spectator emerge as the profession of journalism continues but in a niche, more specialist format.
Whatever happens, PRs need to have a good idea of where the audiences for news have gone. Because it's that knowledge we have been selling to clients for the past century.
Will audiences follow their favourite journalist or just buy a tablet and consume the digital version of their regular masthead? The figures aren't predicting that. If anything, it has become a diaspora of information consumption. International titles, bloggers, Netflix, iTunes, podcasts, and even Twitter, are all getting a thin slice of the action.
But the rush to international sources isn't there either. The weakness of international sites is twofold. Local knowledge, Australians want to know what the news means for Australia, and trust, Jeff Goldblum has died way too many times on Twitter for it to be a trusted source of news.
Yes, the media relations market is about to be completely changed but for smart PRs the 'audience diaspora' offers opportunity. Clients will still need guidance on how to reach the dispersed masses to sell their widgets and services. The exclusive in a metro will need to be replaced by smaller tactical pieces in digital news sites. Understanding how to digitally corral audiences to a client's owned site, long the expertise of media buyers, will become essential for successful PR campaigns.
If we take a step back and consider the larger picture, it's becoming more obvious that as the news media consolidates so does the marketing industry. The skills that were once the domain of a specialist marketing discipline are now, by necessity, being cross fertilised into other disciplines. Take social media as an example. What was once the pure domain of digital agencies has seen PRs, media buyers and creative agencies rush in and land grab. If you like, it has become a race for the 'integrated' client dollar and PRs are up against their marketing cousins in creative, media buying, digital, experiential and research.
In that market, PRs can no longer afford to isolate themselves as a standalone discipline. Clients want the integrated package and without the newspapers they will want a pure PR agency less.
We must also realise that as we add those other marketing skills to our toolkit, we are no longer a PR agency in the eyes of clients (and staff). We become something far more valuable - an integrated marketing communications agency. And that opens a Pandora's box of new challenges for the industry.
Original article written by Anthony Lowe, Director, The Roxburgh Group. The Roxburgh Group provides support services to Australian communication professionals and agencies.