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From shoulder pads to smart phones: Is this the end of ‘traditional’ media?

by Fiona Harris

The media has certainly changed over the past 30 years, but has it all been for the worst? Not necessarily, says Quill chairman Fiona Harris.

When I started my PR career in the early 80’s I’m afraid it was the era of big hair, big earrings and even bigger shoulder pads.

For those of you old enough to remember, think Alexis Colby’s look in Dynasty and you’ve got it! At this time, media land was a world apart from where we are today – all the main newspapers were actually located in Fleet Street for a start. Imagine a working day without mobiles, the internet, e-mail or Twitter, it was a much less frenetic environment but not nearly as exciting as today’s fast-paced 24\7 global media.

Technology has totally revolutionised and reinvigorated the entire press landscape and had a dramatic impact on the media relations industry and how we work with journalists. When working with our clients to get their stories and messages out to a wider audience we now have so many exciting communication channels available to us and a myriad of choice when it comes to disseminating news, be it via traditional print or social media.

So, whilst technology has increased the number of tools available to us, wider industry developments have also opened up a much broader potential audience. Regulatory developments such as the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) and the universal democratisation of pensions is finally pushing savings and investments onto the front pages of the mainstream media, and about time too!

It is very encouraging to see high-profile TV campaigns such at Lloyds Bank’s ‘The M Word’ and even the traditional print media finally devoting more space to savings and investments, the Mail on Sunday’s new ‘Wealth’ section being a case in point.

Online titles have also created much greater demand for visuals – I can’t emphasise enough here the need for quality, creative photography. We are undoubtedly now living in a ‘more pictures, less words’ media world. Charts, infographics or video used creatively to make a particular point or explain a topic are, not to put too fine a point on it, media gold dust.

The rise of YouTube as a highly efficient and cost-effective medium to push out messages is a prime example of the increasing popularity and shift to visual media – you probably won’t be entirely surprised to know that the majority of under 25’s now default to YouTube rather than Google for their information.

So, does all this exciting new media spell the inevitable slow, agonising death of traditional print? My view is a resounding no, but publishers will have to be resourceful and adapt to meet this new paradigm. I have a theory that paid-for Monday to Friday print titles, with one or two key exceptions, will all but disappear over the next 10 years. However, the weekend papers which are more of a leisure purchase and a lifestyle choice will endure because they are seen as ‘entertainment’ and are tangible and trusted by their loyal readers.

Encouragingly, in print land we are also seeing the rise in popularity of the media amalgamators – titles such as MoneyWeek and The Week, amongst others.

Whichever camp you are in, print or online, we are very fortunate in this country to have a dynamic, exciting and highly regarded media. Long may they flourish.

Fiona Harris is founder and chairman of Quill PR