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The economics of news

17 May

I'm sure David Phillips will enjoy this (he's been defending the internet from the attacks of media pundits only today).

John Naughton's usual column is missing from today's print edition of The Observer. There's a small note to say it's available online instead (a suitable place, you might think, for a column about technology). I'm sure it was moved for reasons of space… until I read it. The column's about the problems facing the newspaper industry, including the issue of charging for content online and the difficulties even Rupert Murdoch will experience in moving to a paid-for model for online news.

Surely this can't have displeased the section editor? Will Naughton mind he's been exiled to cyberia?

Susan Boyle: rags to riches

18 Apr

Susanboyle Here's what we can learn for sure from the past week in the life of Britain's Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle.

We learn of the enduring power of storytelling – this is 'rags to riches' while 'David and Goliath' is another perennial favourite. There are surprisingly few great stories.

Great stories get people talking; great stories have the power to move. Great stories remind us of our humanity.

What we don't exactly know is what this tells us about the balance of power between broadcast and social media, between manufactured and organic success. Sure, people will comment on the ability of a YouTube video to make her a global viral phenomenon – but don't forget that this would not have been possible without prime time broadcast television.

Sure, she's a homespun amateur talent. But the ITV programme is presided over by Simon Cowell, that master creator or manufactured success. Will she now have a makeover?

The Guardian newspaper has a detailed analysis of the fame factory at work, including comments from Max Clifford. (That's how The Guardian justifies most of its celebrity and entertainment coverage – by taking an analytical view of the phenomenon.)

See also NBC: An Unlikely Star is Born. Don't be too quick to dismiss the so-called mainstream media and their ability to influence public opinion.

The past and future of PR

28 Mar

Media history
With the exception of one brief era, all human communications can be characterised as social media. Epic poetry, fireside storytelling and conversations have dominated our collective history.

The exceptional era has been the industrial age, which introduced mass media (large circulation newspapers and broadcasting). We're now emerging into a post-industrial age in which mass media sits alongside new forms of web-enabled social media.

So to suggest that public relations is returning to a more conversational style involving community building and storytelling is not to predict something new, but rather to describe a return to something more traditional.

This was one of our discussion points from a guest lecture I gave for London Metropolitan University PR students yesterday.

Print is dead?

20 Feb

News_reader Ahead of tonight’s talk (Print is dead: long live new media) take a look at my news reader this morning. It’s dominated by news feeds from traditional media sources (The Guardian newspaper and PR Week in my case). Only one solitary PR blogger interrupts the stream of news from professional reporters (the energetic Trevor Cook).

One hypothesis suggests that new media will replace old media; this is supported by the closure of some magazines and the decline in circulation (and advertising revenues) of most newspapers. Another hypothesis argues that the traditional skills of the news journalist (speed, selectivity, accuracy, compelling storytelling, editing) gain new value online; that there’s new life in old brands.

Notice how both hypotheses can be true when traditional media adapts for an online future.

Print is Dead – Long Live New Media

13 Feb

Copied from a CIPR regional newsletter. This event should be of interest to some PR students and all of those on my ‘PR and new media’ module.

Print is Dead – Long Live New Media

20 February – James Graham Building, Headingley Campus, Leeds Metropolitan University

What does PR mean in the internet age? Now that information is more likely to be delivered via a monitor than through print it is time to explore new creative options. The ground has shifted so rapidly that firms continue to deliver press releases that no longer work to a media world that no longer exists.

What do firms need to know to be able to move with the times rather than be left behind by the new media wave?

David Parkin, founder of The and formerly business editor of the Yorkshire Post will explain the way forward in reporting business news and why he decided to leave print media in favour of the internet.

David is a high profile figure in the business community and has held senior roles on newspapers in London, Cardiff and the Midlands. He has secured many exclusive interviews with major business figures including Sir Ken Morrison, Lord Hanson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This seminar will take place on 20 February at James Graham Building, Leeds Metropolitan University 6 – 8pm. The event is free to attend to register your place please call Nicky Wake, Don’t Panic Projects on 01706 828855 or email

My week in media

7 Jan

I’ve been tagged by Simon Wakeman. Since I’m indebted to him (he’s setting up the online edition of Behind the Spin magazine), here goes. This is my week in media, January 1-6 2008.

What I’ve read

  • The Economist (essential weekly reading)
  • The Observer (favourite columnists include Andrew Rawnsley on politics, John Naughton on technology and Simon Caulkin on management – he makes his column sound rather like a blog…)
  • Double Fault by Lionel Shriver (tennis as a metaphor for marital strife)
  • God’s Architect – the new biography of Pugin
  • Lonely Planet and Insight guides to Oman / Arabia (I’m going there next week)

What I’ve listened to

What I’ve watched

  • My television highlight was Andy Murray winning the ATP tennis title in Doha (British Eurosport)
  • Lots of news: usually BBC or Channel 4, but sometimes Al-Jazeera for a different perspective

What I’ve surfed

  • RSS feeds (in Google Reader) – though it still felt like a holiday week
  • Travel and currency conversion websites
  • I’ve lived vicariously watching so many New Year’s Eve party photos appearing on Facebook (me, I prefer to stay at home – that way I’ve avoided the flu and the vomiting bug…)

I’ve probably understated my television and radio consumption: radio is always on in the car and in the kitchen. But this list has reminded me how much I still value print. Thank you, Simon. Rather than tagging others, why don’t you pick up the baton (after all, you’ve read this far)?

Imagine a world without journalism

13 Nov

Here are the winners of this year’s student media awards. Now consider the context. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, speaking at Leeds University last Friday, placed newspapers in the context of Web 2.0. That’s a crowded competitive landscape and a threat to the traditional newspaper.

Some PR students don’t like studying journalism. Others don’t get the opportunity (old media or new media). Yet the future is already here: more and more news (Ian Hargreaves calls it ‘ambient news’), but less and less investigative journalism. Politicians don’t get held to account and PR practitioners hold all the cards. I confess this thought troubles me.