Posted by Kate Phizackerley on 21:37

One of the big Web stories at the moment is the move by many online news providers to make viewers pay for content.  Personally I doubt many viewers will be willing to do that.  That's an issue for media organisations caught between a rock and a hard place: if they don't charge, they don't have the income to maintain their accustomed level of profit; if they do charge, readers will migrate elsewhere.  People recognise the value of investigative journalism, like the work done by the Telegraph on MP's expenses and top columnists like Zoe Heller and Jeremy Clarkson.  But will they pay for run of the mill news stories they can get from other sources?  I think not.  Commentators are suggesting that people will also turn more to blogs and indeed traffic and subscriptions to my several blogs are growing steadily.

Unless one works in the media business, this might seem irrelevant.  It may not be.  The truth is that much of what passes for news is really advertorial or announcements dressed up as news.  Anybody who has had a professional marketing role will be familiar with press releases in the hope that the media pick up the "announcement" and present it as "news".  They will be familiar with writing articles which are either designed to either push a product or service, or at least to build brand awareness.  Even a TV show like the X Factor is a good example.  The contestants live within a media controlled environment and there are relatively few stories other than those promoted by Syco or fictionalised supposition.  Yet it is clearly vital for Syco for those stories to be picked up and generate the massive of media interest which drives the X Factor phenomenon.

I’m very involved in amateur Egyptology as many of you may know.   Increasingly blogs, including my own News from the Valley of the Kings, are leading the way at disseminating developments.  There are published, paid for magazines and they are very nice but there can be a big delay between event and publication – and increasingly people want news now, not next month.  Focused, free eZines are in increasing feature of the new world, featuring writing by a range of amateur writers.  There’s a professionally supported one called Heritage Key, for which I have written a couple of commissions. There are others and I suspect more will develop. ;)I’m increasingly carrying work by other writer’s on my own sites for instance.  Today I’m discussing publishing an original poem.

So what are the implications for professional organisations wanting to get their announcements out?  If the market fragments, then they will need to start developing relationships with bloggers and amateur writers.  For professional, for profit, organisations, dealing with amateur bloggers may feel strange.  It shouldn’t.  Political parties have done it for years.  Hollywood stars have developed such a strong relationship with Perez Hilton that he has become a professional. 

There could a need to identify potential bloggers.  That could be local bloggers - if you have local hotel then a blogger writing about the locality could be a key partner.  He will want stories of interest to his readers; you wish to get details of your special promotions out to the community.  It can be harder if your company is selling something technical like actuarial services, or VAT accounting.  In technical fields there may be no amateur bloggers – after all a hobby needs to be … a hobby.  Even there, though, options remain.  For instance the business could sponsor a rally car or an elephant and use blogs about totally unrelated stories to build brand awareness.  It’s much less valuable as there may be minimal overlap between the blog’s readership and the business’s target market; however, it may help even if only in SEO terms.  Better may be to submit articles to allied blogs or businesses.

There is no easy answer.  Nor is it clear how media services will develop over the next decade, but it’s an area which I believe businesses need to monitor.




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