One cannot overemphasize the place of themass media in contemporary society. Since its beginnings, the mass media hasgrown exponentially in size and influence, because of constant innovations in technologythat supports their operations.
Consequently, from the days of newspapers, toradio, to television, and since the 1980s, the Internet, the mass media hasundergone several transformations and transmutations which have impactedsignificantly on its role and place in society (Straubhaar & LaRose, 2002).The most current trend in mass media technology is the internet as well asmobile phones and other related technologies that can be classified as ‘newmedia’ (Sunday, 2008).At the time when newspaperswere the main method of getting news, journalists led conversations. Conversationsare still driven by journalists, but as more people get their news via social media,it is influencers – people you trust enough to follow – who spread them. The riseof the internet and social web has allowed more people to become influencers, sometimesin very niche segments with a massive online audience. There are many faces ofinfluencers. An editor of newspaper is arguably as much an influencer as acelebrity, as is an academic or highly viewed YouTuber as PewDiePie. Therefore, the definition of an influencer oftenneeds to be clearly defined for each influencer marketing programme, toestablish the marketing objectives and to focus which individuals, forexample, fit into a PR media outreach remit and what constitutes a socialinfluencer.
This can differ for each brand and campaign. We have come to understand that the linebetween social media and traditional media is blurring. Traditional-medianational-newspapers are now available in print as well as online, and theseonline articles directly link to social channels (Facebook, Twitter andLinkedIn). Similarly, the line between what constitutes ‘media outreach’through a journalist versus ‘social media influencer outreach’ through ajournalist, is an issue that can cause debate. Arguably a journalist fits intoboth categories, and so there are many facets of who constitutes an influencerwhich is creating crossovers.
Whilst the definition of what constitutes aninfluencer is dependent upon a marketing objective and the structuralorganisation in relation to the PR and communications department with regardsto crossover.There are varying definitions of convergence,but in most incantations, it is the blending of old media, (e.g., traditionalmedia such as magazines, newspapers, television, cable, and radio) with newmedia (computers and the Internet) to deliver content.
Convergence is anelusive term that is used in multiple contexts, and is often ambiguous in itsdefinition. Jenkins (2001) argues convergence is not a simplistic statement ofelectronically retrieving information but occurs on multiple levels throughfive processes: technological, economic, social, global, and culturalconvergence. Seib (2001) states, “convergence involves marrying theslick format of television to the almost infinite information-providingcapacity of the Internet” (p. 7). Andrew Nachison of the AmericanPress Institute’s Media Center defines convergence as “the strategic, operational,product and cultural union of print, audio, video and interactivedigital information services and organizations” (Nachison, A. 2002,pers.
comm., 9 Aug.).The list of convergence definitions isconsistent in the discussion of blending technological capabilities to delivercontent on multiple platforms through computer driven distribution systems. Convergenceis the window of opportunity for traditional media to align itself withtechnologies of the 21st century. The digitization of media and informationtechnology and the ensuing transformation of communication media are majorcontributors to convergence (Gershon 2000; Fidler 1997).The ACMA defines media convergence as’the phenomenon where digitization of content, as well as standards and technologiesfor the carriage and display of digital content, are blurring the traditionaldistinctions between broadcasting and other media across all elements of thesupply chain, for content generation, aggregation, distribution and audiences’.The ACMA identifies a key consequence of convergence for consumers as being asubstantial increase in ‘the availability of media content online – frombroadcasters, news organizations, social media sites, iTunes and YouTube, toname a few of the main media sources – on an increasing array of connecteddevices and screens.
The choice of devices for accessing the internet and 3Gand wireless broadband networks is also giving users flexibility in how andwhere they consume media’.Deuze (2004) looks at the definitionof convergence from the position of ‘multimedia journalism’. This, according tohim, is the integration and presentation of media products through differentmedia. He also refers as the horizontal integration of media, which in thiscase involves both traditional and digital media.
This bears some semblance tocross media ownership, where one establishment (or owner) operates differentmedia forms (Raufu, 2003).Digital technology compressesinformation and allows text, graphics, photos, and audio to be transmittedeffectively and rapidly across media platforms. The phenomenal growth of theInternet from the introduction of the Mosaic graphical browser to PDF files,audio and streaming video has resulted in a rapid expansion of online content.Changing demographics and competing messages have made the Internetparticularly attractive to traditional print and broadcast media who havesought to protect brand name and their historical specialty of gathering anddisseminating news, information, and entertainment.The integration of content acrossmedia platforms to connect users is part of the goal of convergence in mediaorganizations.
‘This is all in its infancy and It’s happening becausenewspapers are seeing subscriptions declining and TV stations arewatching viewers decline and they figure that if they can cross promoteeach other and share resources, they can attract new audiences andsave money,’ according to James Gentry, dean of the University of KansasSchool of Journalism (Wendland 2001, p. 11). Gentry states by 2001 there were 50media partnerships or affiliations across the U.S. practicing convergence, andthe lure for the media companies ‘is increased advertising revenuebrought about by higher ratings, more subscribers, or more website traffic'(Wendland 2001, par. 10).
There is an economic and philosophical duality tothe convergence goal for media organizations that seek to capture users andaudiences for their online and offline business units.The current debate revolves around theissue of whether media organizations are in the content business and what arethe complimentary channels to deliver that content. Convergence is driven bythe intersection of content delivery through different platforms, but whatcontent gets there and how in that combination of text, audio, and video iscentral to the decision. The interactivity provided with online contentdelivered by the computer is enticing. The old one-way model of masscommunication from one source to many, must adjust in the converged world to atwo-way communication from many individuals in an interactive new mediaenvironment.In the early days in print and broadcastnewsrooms, access to the Internet at workstations was not widespread; today inthe world of computer-assisted reporting it is the norm. At the matching stage,for media organizations it was the development of online divisions with staffand resources within the organization or as separate business units. At theredefining/restructuring stage, the dot.
com bust of 2001 translated in mediaorganizations cutting staff in their online divisions (Moses, 2001). Theclarifying stage is the surge in the focus on convergence in the mediaindustry. For example, training journalists across business units, or newspaperphotographers and broadcast camera operators become videographers. A businessstrategy at many media outlets in 2002 was a push for online registration ofweb sites, in some instances a paid/fee hybrid is in place for certain premiumcontent (Sullivan, 2003). The fifth stage, routinizing is still unfolding formedia organizations as they deliberate over strategies and best practices topropel the organizations into the future.Amobi (2014) identifies several benefits ofmedia convergence. Citing Deuze (2004) and Verweij (2009), she posits that theconvergence “offers more opportunities for the public to be more informed andinvolved in a story, and offer the reporter and the editor more integratedtools to tell the story” (Amobi, 2014:25). She adds that convergence has transformedmedia organizations from what she termed ‘lone rangers’ into multimedia ‘teamplayers’, ultimately enhancing their output.
Convergence promotesinteractively, she highlights, and aids to combine to greater effect the “depthof newspaper coverage, the immediacy of television, and the interactivity ofthe Web”. There are different examples of new media such as the Internet,mobile phones, videoconferencing, e-mail, chat rooms, online newspapers/newsmagazines among host of others. These different types of new media have oneway or the other affected media relations practice.
Media relationspractitioners while using new media can work more effectively and efficiently.This is because it has proven that new media help to increase work efficiencyand speed as well as reduce cost. Moreover, new media enable media relationspractitioners to communicate with the media in a new and creative ways whichwould go a long way in creating confidence in not just the media but theirpublics as well. Another important promise of new media is the “democratization”of the creation, publishing, distribution and consumption of media content.This means that everyone, and anyone, who has the access and means to new mediatechnology can create and control the dissemination of media messages.New media like the internet and mobile phoneamong others make for two –way communication which is the core aim of goodmedia relations. Ayankojo (2001) recalls that “there are chat rooms for virtualdiscussion where users have opportunities to talk on-line” with theorganizations having the websites. A message typed and sent within a chat roomappears almost at the same time on the computers of other users in the samechat room, 24hours daily.
New media also encourage feedback and interactivity.Take the mobile phones for instance, these new media give media relationspractitioners’ means to interact with reporters and get immediate feedback asthe case maybe. In addition, the web, Rodney (2005) observes is “interactive innature.” Furthermore, Lievrouw and Livingstone (2006) state that new media giveusers the means to generate, seek and share content selectively, and tointeract with other individuals and groups on a scale that was impracticablewith traditional means.” In short, the immediacy, responsiveness and socialpresence of interaction in most new media constitute a huge opportunity formedia relations.Influencers have a newmeaning for the PR industry. While it’s hardly a new idea, PR pros are placinga greater emphasis on influencers in the digital age. In our industry, weare always seeking out influential people to advocate on behalf of our clients,and due to today’s consumption of media, influencers have evolved.
Today, PRpros can expect to find themselves in a constant mix of traditional andnon-traditional influencers. Despite the similarities of traditional media andsocial media influencers, it’s important to recognize the differences betweenthe two. Anyone can be an influencer today. If you want to write about a topic,you just do it. The great thing about having access to so many differentdigital age influencers is it allows you to grow relationships with the bestpeople for their specific markets and industries. Information isless centralized than it used to be. Due to the spread of content across theInternet, PR professionals have to dig deeper to find contacts.
Luckily, thereare powerful tools to make it easier to spot influencers on the web. Most influencers aren’tjournalists, and not all journalists are influencers. But sometimes theirpowers are combined in a super-influential hybrid who drives conversations.They are opinionleaders and trendsetters. Influencers are the people who are always up to dateon what’s current and are deemed as a credible and reliable source ofinformation.
Traditional influencers such as journalists and digitalage influencers have the ability to reach mass amounts of people, and hold agreat deal of power on how your client can be perceived. At the end ofthe day finding the right influencers in the digital age takes the samediligence and practice as traditional media, yet working with digital age influencerscalls for PR professionals to be ready to enter new territory.