Nic Newman’s Journalism, Media and Technology Predictions 2013 is a must read

I missed this when it first came out but Nic Newman‘s Journalism, Media and Technology Predictions 2013 is a must read.

There’s lots of detailed fascinating insight and analysis with case studies and examples and I’ve shared the executive summary below:

  • The coming year will mark the BIG switch to mobile computing. It will overtake desktop use for news – in turn driving more mobile first media
  • Improving video capability and data graphics will be a major theme for news organisations aiming to engage audiences using better screens and faster connections
  • Live pages, live streams and live workflows become a key focus in newsrooms – with newformats emerging for bite-sized news
  • The phablet is coming – a mix between a smartphone and tablet. Mid sized screens andaffordability will hit the sweet spot for many consumers
  • We’ll see a further deepening of the social revolution across all platforms – accompanied by a growing debate about the implications – privacy, control and all the new skills required to manage it (we said this last year but it is worth repeating)
  • In technology expect big advances in gesture control (LeapMotion), indoor location, 3D Printers – and the beginnings of wearable computing
  • More disruption in banking & finance, retailing and higher education as the Internet revolution begins to bite

While the document is really an analysis of the media and journalism sector it doesn’t take a leap of imagination for PR professionals to recognise the impact the predicted transformations will have on communications planning. There may well be  future post in this – distilling the technology-led disruptions re-shaping the media/journalism space and what it means for PR practitioners. For now let’s just note that Nic’s prediction that at least two UK national newspapers will go behind paywalls in 2013 has already come to pass!

PR needs to solve problems to stay relevant

Something I’ve been thinking about recently is the scope and pace of innovation in journalism and the wider media industry. Just take a look at the multiple posts on about using emerging digital tools for improved and innovative news-gathering and reporting. Or take a look at The Times’s Digital Experiments blog where the paper’s digital types talk about their “‘not quite finished’ projects and products […] share some best practice tips and tricks as we learn and try our new platforms and features.

In a great post on the Poynter Institute’s blog about mobile disruption in journalism, Cory Bergman argues that “News needs to solve problems”:

“A study by Flurry in November found that the news category only accounts for 2 percent of total time spent on mobile apps. Social apps gobble up 26 percent. Facebook alone accounts for 23 percent of all time spent with mobile apps, according to Comscore in December. That beats every news organization’s app combined by a long shot. As Facebook (and Twitter) grow in time spent – and since both are populated with plenty of news – they’re increasingly competitive with news organizations’ mobile experiences by sheer volume. As a result, simply extending a news organizations’ current coverage into mobile isn’t enough. We need to solve information problems for our users and drive measurable revenue for our advertisers. Mobile is not merely another form factor, but an entirely new ecosystem that rewards utility.  Flipboard is a classic example of solving a problem (tablet-based content discovery) while The Daily is an example of a product that did not.”

Such problem solving is an issue which I believe the media and news industries are embracing whole-heartedly but that the PR industry is failing to address adequately. I could be wrong and have just missed great examples of problem-solving and innovation… but my instinct (and experience) tells me that a) generally speaking PR is not adapting to the social or digital space as fully as other marketing industry sectors (see Jed’s recent post for macro-level issues) and b) where it is adapting it’s doing so reactively to the current challenges faced by the news or media sector. Thus as the sector innovates rapidly PR risks finding it practices and norms outmoded very quickly. Again, I could be wrong and it’d be interesting to see inside and study some examples of PR agencies that are – or consider themselves to be – innovating.

What’s missing as far as I can tell is what Cory Bergman refers to as a ‘startup mentality’:

“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself,” explains Y Combinator’s Paul Graham. “By far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.”

There are some interesting and potentially powerful examples of great start-up ideas emerging for PR practitioners, such as Adam Parker’s Lissted – but not enough in my opinion.

And I guess this highlights two further questions: 1) who is responsible for this innovation and 2) where does innovation lie. Firstly, Lissted is developed by Realwire, the online press release distribution service. It’s not developed by an agency. Why is this? Clearly a number of factors come into play but considering the structural challenges faced by the PR industry mentioned earlier it could be argued that while PR agencies operate with tighter margins than other more ‘business strategic’ players in the marketing service sector, such as media and advertising agencies (the result of PR’s historical legacy as a tactical media relations discipline) there’s no capacity or desire to invest in innovation. And such a reality is surely set to worsen as digital increases the cannibalisation of the sector.

Secondly, if we accept this reality then where does potential innovation lie? In-house innovation – if it happens – may well be retained as proprietary to justify investment (although you’d hope that open sourcing, transparency and sharing would be remain the spirit). The news industry has think tanks to help identify problems and spur innovation in a way that the PR industry doesn’t have. Perhaps we should look to other areas obliquely involved in the PR industry where people have time to step back and analyse the industry, its practice and future direction and spend time developing solutions.

What I’m thinking about is the potential for universities with PR courses to lead in this space. It’s something I’ve been starting to do with my students through assessing student’s ability to identify communications problems and using tools such as IFTTT to create solutions. Similarly, industry bodies, such as the CIPR’s Social Media Panel should be steering industry leadership through innovation. As a member of the panel this is something we will be seeing more of through out 2013.

Such independent and collective groups can surely help build solutions and bridge the innovation gap. Forward thinking agencies could pool resources – financial, creative, etc – and and collaborate with the groups mentioned above to help drive innovation and help PR stay abreast of wider digital and social developments.

Communicating protest: Some notes on police PR tactics – Part 1

First and foremost I want to set these blog posts into some context.

I posted previously about The Met's use of staged or managed events at the second student demo as part of its communications strategy and suggetsed I might write a follow-up post to examine some of the Met's more conventional PR tactics to shape media coverage and public opinion.

Also, as part of my PhD I'm planning on using my blog as a way of keeping notes and sharing thoughts that will come in useful as my research progresses. These posts are part of that iterative process. 

In addition to the above, these posts will also hopefully serve as a handy – if modest and incomplete – reference guide for journalists to help them undertand and decode some of the communications tactics employed by the Met and thus potentially improve the depth of questioning and breadth of coverage.

Part 1 – How 'framing' media stories is used for effective political policing

In US academic, Robert Entman's, book on the way issues or stories are 'framed' (that is how relevant information is gathered and edited into 'news') by the media he asserts that by establishing the terms of a potential story, strategic actors (in our case, the Met) can command and control the way the subsequent news is perceived and – more importantly – how it continues to influence future stories.

Specifically, in Projections of Power (2004) he outlines what Curran (2002) calls the "definitional power" of the media:

"A dominant frame [i.e an official way of interpreting information] in early news coverage of an event can acticat and sprad congruinet thoughts and feelings in individuals' knowledge […] that guides responses to all future reports. First impressions may be difficult to dislodge." p.7 [my emphasis]

This theory can be used to explain the PR tactics adopted by the Met even before a demonstration takes place who you will often find issuing a briefing to 'define' the direction of the media narrative.

This happened ahead of the most recent student demonstration on 9th December where Commander Bob Broadhurst, the head of the Met's public order branch, told media they were expecting the student demonstration to be violent.

It also happened ahead of the 2009 G20 protests in London when weeks before planned demos Superintendent David Hartshorn, who then headed the Met's public order branch, exclusively told The Guardian the Met was: "preparing for a "summer of rage" as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions."

With hindsight these examples offer a useful opportunity to interpret the way they potentially shaped public perception of events.

Take the recent student demo as our first case study: telling the media they were execting violence firstly activates in the public's mind that the demonstration is goin to be violent. Whether it ever turns out to be or not this perception and mindet towards demonstrators is established. Secondly, it acts to legitimise police violence because, as the Met has aldready confirmed in advance, it was expecting violence so any brutality on its part must be a response.

This technique neatly reverses cause an effect of violent public order situations and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for the Met.

The ' helped significantly by the news management technique of 'embedding' journalists within forces to help ensure the event is interpreted from a specific perspective – despite the best aims of 'objective' reporting.

Another 'set piece' in the police's PR toolkit to help 'frame' news from within protests or public order situations is the use – and reporting – of injuries.  

**Before I go any further, please note: I am not excusing or valorising any kind of violent behaviour or resultant injury to anyone. I am trying to explore and explian how injuries that happen within tense situations can be used to establish a particular perception in the media.**

The reporting of injuries can be used both qualitatively to reinforce the notion of 'violent demonstrators' and 'police as victims' and also quantitively to show how much of a battle the police won/lost (depending on the public's wider perceptions post-event).

As an example of the first tactic see this quote from a police spokesperson from Nottinghamshire police during the demonstration at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in 2009:

"Throughout the day officers have been assaulted but police remain in control of the site. We have one officer who sustained head injuries at the protest. He was airlifted to Derbyshire Royal Infirmary where he is being treated. His wife has been made aware but we have no update on his condition.

"One protester also received treatment on site by police officers and was taken away by ambulance. His condition is unknown."

It would later transpire that the office didn't sustain a head injury – which, of course, was good news.

What is noticable is the formal and melodramatic reporting for the injured police officer (e.g. "his wife has been informed") that's clearly missing from comments about the injured protester – along with a more complete total of injured protestors which was much higher than 'one'.

Now, this may seem rather extreme: exploiting injuries to shape media covergae, but wider context and examples will hopefully illustrate the point further.

The injured officer airlifted to hospital was actually treated by a medic that was protesting on the day. From tweets at the time and emails I've seen subsequently it would appear that at the time the officer was being treated it was apparent that he was unlikely to be suffering from head injuries, as the hospital or police later confirmed.

The Guardian – as I understand it – was party to the development in the story, but of course by then it was old news and the public's perception had been set.

A further – and by now, infamous – example of the quantitative use of police injuries in PR is Kingsnorth Climate Camp.

During the 2008 Climate Camp gathering police used extreme measures to intimidate protestors, such as sleep deprivation and excessive stop and search activity. In addition, police revealed to the media and Parliament that a total of 70 officers had been injured during the police operation.

It wasn't until a FoI request from the Liberal Democrats that it became apparent not a single injury was sustained from protestors; rather records showed injujuries were mostly toothache, diarrhoea, cut fingers and "possible bee stings".

I won't labour the point, but you get the idea that by the time the reality of the situation has unravelled it's old news and the public perception has been crystalised.

For a good overview of examples of this, specifically related to climate change and climate justice campaigning, see Kevin Smith's post for the Guardian's CiF blog.

The next post in this series will look at post-demonstration tactics, the use of language and perhaps look at some of the additional reasons for the effectiveness of police PR and media management, e.g. the formalised news production processes and cultural values of the media.



Curran, J. (2002). Media & Power. Routledge.

Entman, R. (2004). Projections of Power. University of Chicago Press.

Is McKinsey and Nielsen’s social media division a backwards step?

I saw this story earlier in the week and now Drew B's blogged about the announcement that the media metrics people Nielsen have teamed up with the management consultancy McKinsey to launch a social media division.

Drew's rather positive about the venture, called NM Incite, suggesting that it's "good to see [this] type of advisory coming from the bright sparks
at McKinsey
". I'm rather more skeptical and wonder whether they can offer the level of depth and understanding of the social space as social media and even communications consultancies. Of course, that may not be the primary motivation for McKinsey – rather the lure of lucrative contracts.

Without being able to comment in-depth on McKinsey's reputation at management consultancy I am  suspicious about management consultancies offering genuine communications consultancy. Only last month I was chatting with a senior PR consultant who was lamenting a 'brand strategy' put together by the client's management consultancy.

What I find particularly fascinating about this move is that NM Incite appears to be offering products *as well as* solutions. According to the 'Offerings' section on their website they can provide:

  • Customisable dashboards
  • APIs
  • Tracker reports and alerts

Interesting that as 'social media' becomes more about strategic business consultancy to socialise organisations, the traditional management consultancies are turning to selling widgets rather than knowledge.

It just goes to show that not even the bastions of the global business management empire are immune from disintermediation.

Two post-event analyses of the #DEBill by me

As you might have seen in my previous
somewhat splenetic call to action
against the Digital Economy Bill the past few
weeks have been spent with my blood pressure rather high.

Perhaps out of therapy – or merely because
it’s offered a fascinating case study of how social media can be used to
potentially open up some form of direct democracy – I’ve pulled together a
couple of blog posts on the subject.

The posts broadly cover the use of social
media to campaign against the bill and the – I argue – ground-breaking way Twitter
was used to report the crucial debates in real-time as well as engage with
politicians mid-debate.

The first post was published over on We
Are Social's (i.e. my work's) blog
while the second was guest posted over at Royal Holloway University’s
New Political Communications Unit blog


The digital industry must act now to stop the Digital Economy Bill

The way the UK’s Digital Economy Bill was created by Lord Mandelson and the music industry was  staggering in its audacity and truly disgusting. There was no attempt to veil the fact that the legislation was patently designed to protect the content industries; support executive salaries (and don’t for one second think that this will protect artists’ revenues. It doesn’t and it won’t) and insulate industrial busienss models form the creativity and innovation opened up by the Internet. It was also clear that the Bill would directly impact on citizens and consumers’ personal freedom and rights.

Outstandingly, as this vile piece of legislation has passed through the democratic process (and having been party to some of the to-ing and fro-ing of amendments in the Lords, I use that term loosely) the application of corrupt, money-driven, corporate, executive-serving self-interest has reached even loftier heights of shame.

I won’t dwell on the passion Lord Mandelson has shown in seeking to drive the Bill through the Commons without democratic debate; nor the disgusting collusion shown by all mainstream parties to date in order to gratify big business by preventing a debate; not even the appalling silence from both my own MP, Stewart Jackson, and Lord Clement Jones, who tabled a catastrophic amendment in the Lords at the behest of his content producing clients for at his firm DLA Piper. Without any doubt he is truly a vile, greed-obsessed man more passionate about protecting his client’s interests and his personal wealth than individual, human right.

Instead I want to call on my friends and peers that work in the digital and technology industries and issue a call to action: stand up for democracy; stand up against authoritarian, corporate-driven legislation; stand up for what is right.

The effects of the Digital Economy Bill as it stands will have serious implications for everyone. Us digital media types won’t be able to stop off at a café for a coffee and check our emails because free, open wifi will be shut off. Our children won’t be able to do their homework or learn about the wonders of the wider world because the household has been disconnected without evidence after someone has been suspected of 'illegally' sharing a large file.

But simply, if the Digital Economy Bill is passed we'll be faced with a bleak future where the stupefied consumers of Huxley’s Brave New World are now being shown the Orwell 1984 treatment.

Please. Please. Please. Act NOW before it is too late. Wake up from your stupefaction and do something:

**UPDATED** Ofcom: remind me what it’s for again?

I'm sorry. What's the point of Ofcom again? I'm sure it plays a valuable role regulating something but it seriously doesn't get the internet does it?

I am blown away by the sheer mind-numbing stupidity of today's report (which the BBC seems to be slavishly re-gurgitating without question.

According to Ofcom, the UK is one of the "world's most advanced countries in terms of digital communications". Why might you ask? Is it because we amazing broadband speeds? Is it because we have cloud wifi covering major cities?

No. It is because – and prepare yourselves for this – we, as a nation:

  • spend more time watching TV than other countries
  • send more texts than other countries
  • leads the world in online advertising (WTF??)

This blows me away. It really does. Call me a cynic but the reasons given hardly amount to anything substantial or even coherent (texts,TV, online ads?).

But what if you were a government trying to push through an insanely authoritarian bill that will curtail free, public use of the internet. You might want to convince the public that Britain is a great digital nation, thus giving the impression they can be trusted to make the right decisions.

It's not as if the report is independent. It's by Ofcom, a government body. The same body who will likely gets lots of money and power from enforcing the draconian laws in Peter Mandelson and the music industry's  Digital Economy Bill.

Sorry to harp on, but the report (or at least the BBC's coverage of it) sounds hollow. While it may be purely coincidence, given the nightmare of Mandelson's Digital Economy Bill which will certainly push us down any real global measure of 'digitalness' I can't help wonder if the two are connected.

**UPDATE** The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones tells me via Twitter that it's a just "a bunch of stats" Ofcom release every year. So it's more likely that it's a crappy news angle for a press release rather than anything sinister.

EXCLUSIVE: Dick Fedorcio, Met Police blogger engagement and my part in it…


G20 officer hides badge

I published a blog post earlier this year in which I questioned the Metropolitan Police's approach to social media and criticised what I perceived to be the wrong organisational attitude.

Rather than looking to embrace social media, listen, adapt and respond to the public and earn the reputation it deserves, comments made by the Met's Director of External Affairs, Dick Fedoricio, in a PR Week interview suggested otherwise:

"If I was seeking to
manipulate people, it would raise a question about how that reduced our
integrity. To be leaning on someone to say "give us a good blog" starts
to raise some ethical issues.

I wanted to return to this issue for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I was shocked (but unsurprised) to see that according the Evening Standard, the Met has now requested that all imagery of its officers hiding or obscuring their badges be removed from photo libraries and image databases (hiding numbers means officers can't be (easily) identified and is an illegal tactic usually performed to allow police to act with impunity while committing – often violent – offences against the public).

While the Standard accuses the Met of trying to "re-write history", a member of the public gets it right in a comment posted on the story:

"If people start uploading such images to Facebook and Twitter, will
they get their collars felt? We seem to be heading in that direction."

Leaving aside the jusdgement of which direction society is heading, the issue of whether material incriminating authorities published publicly in the social web can be removed remains – as does the question: what power do authorities have to, in DIck's words, "manipulate" or "lean on" someone to force removal?

Following the G20 the Met has signed up 6Consulting and Radian6 to run social media monitoring for the force so it's very likely that any 'offending' material will certainly be identified. That said, I return to the point I made originally which was that this approach reveals a traditional command and control communications culture at the Met which will not fit in the distributed, complex, networked world in which we now live.

I mentioned there were a couple of reasons I wanted to blog about this topic again. That's the first, the second is much more personal.

After my previous post in which the Met's Dick Fedorcio told PR Week that he will "not go as far as interacting with bloggers" he went right ahead by 'interacting' with me.

So how did he interact with me? Was it a comment left on my blog post examining the Met's approach to social media? Was it an email explaining the Met's decision not to interact with bloggers? 

No. Instead Dick left me a voicemail on my work phone. Why he phoned me at work I don't know (especially given my blog states clearly it's a personal site and encourages contact via my personal email address).

Dick's voicemail was rather aggressive (I'm sure this was unintentional) and stated that he worked for Scotland Yard (again, this is confusing, but I'm sure he meant the Metropolitan Police).

He advised me, in a rather intimidating fashion, that if I planned on blogging about the Met againI  should give him a call in advance.

Now I'm sure Dick meant only well by his inadvertently aggressive and intimidating phonecall advising I seek permission before blogging about the Met, but it seems clear to me that the Met are doing blogger engagement, despite what they tell PR Week.

Plus ca change…

Technorati tags: Dick Fedorcio, Metropolitan Police, blogger engagement

Three quarters of people would switch to alternative free news if Rupert Murdoch has his way


Since Murdoch made his announcement about pushing for pay-walled content on his titles there's been a lot of discussion about how the future of online content is 'paid for'.

Well, frankly I don't buy it (literally) and thankfully PaidContent:UK has come up with some research that proves the wider public also don't want to buy it either.

According to a write up in the Guardian, PaidContent's research shows that

If … favourite news site begins charging for access to content, three quarters of people would simply switch to an alternative free news source…

  • Just 5% of those readers would choose to pay to continue reading the site.
  • 8% would continue reading the site's free headlines only.
  • 12% of respondents are not sure what they would do.

I really hope this is an accurate representation of how the battle for paid for vs free content plays out.

The risk, of course, is that several major news sources follow Murdoch into paid-for content limiting the offering of free content.

But then I suppose that's why Murdoch and his minions/family are targeting the BBC so vehemently. As long as the BBC continues to serve up quality news courtesy of the license fee then surely his paid-for business model fails.

But then thinking about it, even if Murdoch succeeds in getting the mainstream BBC locked up, what happens to BBC World Service. It's 100% funded by the British Government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office – so surely this outlet will continue to deliver quality, state-sponsored broadcasting?

Tags: paidcontent, Rupert Murdoch, BBC

Have we finally breached the symbolic ‘real media’ vs social media divide?

There's an interesting post over at the blog where they are trying to crowd source the perfect press release.

The post offers some great press release-writing tips for people new to the industry and even acts as a reminder to those more seasoned PR professionals about what journalists really want to know about a story.

But what's interesting about the results is the inclusion of social mediia elements which are being specifically requested by journalists.

Maybe I'm wrong to be surprised, but when journalists are asking for "a headline have crossed over into … short enough for a Twitter update including a link." then it seems we really have gotten over the online vs offline; 'real media' vs social media divide.

The only thing is…. while journalists are adapting quickly to a new, more real-time media environment have PR professionals? I still see a lot of "no-one really reads blogs" or "Yes, but what's the reach of that Tweet?" from PROs.

So here's the real incentive: even if you want to ignore that the media landscape and infrastructure is changing around you….. the journalists you are pitching stories to already get it and if you don't adapt accordingly then you'll be less effective at doing your job. Simples!

Tags:, social media, press release