Facing the Future

Earlier this week I went along to Edge Hill University for Facing the Future – Where are PR and journalism going?  The evening was part of the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the University’s PR degree course.  Around 100 people, a mixture of students and CIPR members, came to hear the two speakers; CIPR President Sarah Pinch  and Alastair Machray, editor of the Liverpool Echo.

Among the topics discussed were the need to feed the 24/7 news cycle, the shift from print to digital media and growth of citizen journalism.

Alastair Machray made it clear that digital content is the main priority in his newsroom, with stories being written for online use and then edited for the print edition of the Echo. He also stressed the need for journalists to develop a personal brand online and that journalists are increasingly being rated on how many page views they can generate.

With regard to the future of PR, Sarah Pinch talked about the absolute necessity to maintain high ethical standards, citing the case of the DWP benefit sanctions campaign as an example of how not to do things. She also believes that developing and maintaining relationships is becoming an increasingly important PR requirement.

So, what is the future for communications? Newspapers such as the Echo are clearly prioritising their digital operations, increasingly placing a greater emphasis on live blogging and video content.

However, I think that reports on the death of print may well be premature. With most people agreeing that online viewers have a short attention span, it is clear that feature articles and in depth analysis really only work in print. The fact that magazines such as Private Eye and The Economist continue to have circulations that are comfortably in six figures shows that there is a market for news in print. We should also remember that many of us regard reading the print copy of a newspaper or magazine as “me time”.

Predicting the future is difficult, but I think that we may soon see most of us getting our news from online apps and our comment and analysis from niche print publications.  Meanwhile, I’m off to the races at Aintree on Saturday, hopefully I can predict some winners!

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