As information consumption continues to change, so must we

A few predictions for our industry in 2016

Like most public relations professionals, I started my career in journalism. From 1997 to 2003, I worked at Baton Rouge’s The Advocate. I’ve also built websites for the Business Report, In Register and consulted with the Times-Picayune. I know a lot about news from both the inside and the outside. This December I cancelled my print subscription. For 36 of my 42 years on this earth, including the six years I worked for the Advocate online, I have read the local newspaper wherever I lived or was visiting. I love local newspapers. I think a local reporter understands the truth about their community better than any other.

However, even I have finally succumbed to the seduction of just reading it online.

The ever-changing ways that news and information is consumed changes how we as PR professionals, marketers, advertisers, brand ambassadors, content creators and designers do our jobs. In 2016, this will manifest itself in a few ways.

The first of my future predictions that isn’t all that shocking if you just look back in time. In 1995, Michael Kinsley left his job as co-host on CNN’s Crossfire to be the online editor of Microsoft’s newest venture – an online magazine called Slate. At the time, I remember thinking that he had just gone back in his career to limit his audience to me and the handful of people I knew who were reading news online. But, the other thought I had was that his name, his reputation, his prominence, might bring attention to the publication. Prior to then, a reporter or editor wanted to work at a more prestigious publication to gain audience, and build his or her reputation. Not the other way around.

I predict that in 2016, we’ll see more reporters/editors/influencers acting less as freelancers (guns for hire), and more as free agents (bringing their big name and audience to a new venue). Rather than starting their own channels like Huffington, Drudge or Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (YouTube’s #1 called PewDiePie), we’ll see writers giving up “publishing” in favor of doing what they love – writing – and not hustling for advertising or fooling with web publishing.

There will be further division between news for the politically literate (like David Wood’s brilliant piece “What ISIS Really Wants” from the Atlantic) and news for the socially connected (“Even without cold 'snuggle' weather, here are 12 Christmas movies to relax to”). The bifurcation of news isn’t anything new, but I think that news organizations will finally decide whether they are “serious” or “entertaining.”

What does that mean for brands and marketers? That targeting messages to the right audience will become even more critical to success. It may be more difficult to navigate these waters at times, which is why we’re investing in better media tracking technology so we can offer better insights to our clients. In addition, Covalent’s Media Center technology, called Cicero, offers a host of options not available in off-the-shelf systems, including automatic high resolution photo licensing, distributed multi-brand release management through a unified enterprise system, integrated custom microsites and media accommodation and question requests that knows the hierarchy of the organization to geo-locate the best person to respond to the question. This allows brands to offer up a host of information and services to reporters, bloggers and content creators, making it easy for third-party producers to amplify a message.

In 2016 storytelling is going to be what matters for brands, for public figures, for companies big and small. This has been talked about a lot over the past few years, but in 2016 people and organizations that don’t get it will fall too far behind to catch up. It’s time to innovate and engage, to embrace ever-changing technology and dive deeper into digital in a meaningful way.

If I can give up the feel of newsprint between my fingers in favor of a smooth, cool touchscreen, then almost anything is possible.

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