The gloomy reports about dwindling newspaper circulations could lead some to believe that traditional media and the journalism that powers it are on the wane. ABC’s readership stats identified an 8.1 per cent drop in February 2014 compared with the same period last year. While this certainly places traditional publications under pressure, the fact is that journalism itself is now being carried out in less institutionalised forms and across a much wider array of channels.
One only has to turn on a 24 hour news channel to see that everyone today can be a ‘journalist’. We are in the ‘what’s the reaction like over Twitter?’ era. Therefore, the temptation for a brand, because of the social channels available to them, is to become the editor-in-chief. It is easy to see why: the sheer breadth of social channels available provide a far more accessible way of getting messages out there.
In theory, a brand should no longer be burdened by needing to apply the skills associated with creating and selling a story that works for a traditional heavyweight such as the FT. In practice however, the nature of applications such as Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube means that traditional storytelling takes on even greater significance. If you fail to provide authentic content that is suitably tailored for these channels, then you are missing substantial opportunities to engage with your audience. If anything, it could do your brand more harm than going through conventional routes. At least when doing that, you have an editor as the qualified gatekeeper.
The truth is that the thinking required for the digital age isn’t that far removed from that applied in the past. Businesses still need to determine exactly what will interest the audience they are attempting to engage with and influence, and develop a compelling angle accordingly. You can spend endless time fretting about new channels to use, but without the initial big idea and skill to develop it into a hard-hitting story, the time is wasted.
So the challenge isn’t one of adapting to the new communication channels, the challenge is, as it always has been, coming up with a game-changing idea. This is why it will be the businesses with a proven track record of devising compelling content for the media that will ultimately be the ones to thrive in this digital age.
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