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Digital media: Old enough to suffer disruption

NEUTRAL BAY – By Alexandra Mayhew, Partner, Wells Haslem Strategic Public Affairs

Online news is more competitive than print ever was. 80 per cent of news site consumers never look below the fold – they stick to the top 20 slots on most Australian news sites. So while a story may get a run online, odds are, unless it’s above the fold, few people are reading it. Partner Alexandra Mayhew explains what has changed and what you can do to increase your chances of getting above the fold.

Disruptive technologies – the big three

Disruptive technologies have transformed many industries of late. Public relations is no different.

It’s 2016. The following insights would be outdated if they were highlighting the shift from print to web.

The digital media industry is ingrained enough now for itself to be disrupted – and there are three aspects at work: video; social; mobile. 

The combination of the three is where the power lies.

Video killed the press release

Fairfax Media (whose print staple includes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times) is looking to triple its video output in the next six months.

And while the humble press release isn’t a twitching corpse just yet, it’snow more irrelevant than ever before.

Firstly, journalists are not reading them. Even if these time-poor people can be convinced to skim the headline, often the content is not deemed worthy. But it’s more than this. It’s the format. The bad format. They want an easily digestible format. They want video.

Mobile matters

Australia’s news outlets are now targeting mobile as the primary platform, desktop follows.

So news must fit the mobile platform. Graphics must be mobile friendly. Timing the news should fit with where people are consuming. Many Australian’s consume their news in the palm of their hand on the way to work. So not only must it fit the platform, the timing must work for the time of day people want to consume different types of media.

Social and shareability 

Many marketers dream of a viral marketing campaign. However, as far as many experts know, there’s no perfect formula for sending something viral.

But don’t underestimate the day-to-day power of social media.

In 2014 about three per cent of Fairfax’s traffic came from social media. Last year it more than quadrupled to 14 per cent. It will continue to increase.
So social is important. Very important.

It works three ways.

One way is to create shareable content in the first place. That is, pitch in a story and explain how it will be shareable. For example cats. The internet loves cats.

Another way, potentially complementary to the first or potentially as a standalone (depending on your numbers), is providing your own social media figures. The more interest you can demonstrate you can independently generate, the better, as you can argue your ability to drive substantial traffic back to the news organisation’s website. This obviously only works if you have impressive figures or a very clever campaign.

Thirdly, back to video. If your news story is shared on social media (mainly Facebook – it’s the behemoth of the social media world) traffic will increase by about 10 percent. If video is incorporated it will increase to over 40 per cent. Think about that. Then go record some cats with your product.

Other changes 

In addition to the power-tri, the following changes should be considered in 2016 PR campaigns.

  • Change who you’re hiring – or at least add to the list – start hiring data specialists and videographers.
  • Editors no longer dictate the news – the clicks do. PR practitioners must convince journalists the public want to know, will be interested, and will share it online.
  • Deadlines are different – Depending on who you’re talking to and how you’re talking to them should dictate when you’re pitching.
  • While video can be rough, photos must be perfect.
  • Think in terms of graphics – Find another way to tell the story with graphics.
  • But infographics are already passé – Send interactive graphics instead.
  • Op eds are shrinking in size – Think 650 words, not 1000+.
  • Get snacking; bite-size news can work – Can’t generate 1000+ words with your story? Pitch it anyway. News outlets aren’t looking to fill columns these days, it’s about clicks. And a good heading with a bite sized piece of information can work. The majority of readers don’t read past the first few pars anyway.

For more insights from Wells Haslem, please see the agency’s magazine, The Shell.