As more journalists are laid off, are more newspapers being filled with copy that originated with public relations agents? YES and NO, at least in Britain.
The question has particular relevance as newspapers and magazines consider charging for online content. Rupert Murdoch says his online publications may soon start charging readers. But why should the public be willing to pay for what PR agents are giving away for free, to advance the desires of their clients? (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)
The obvious answer is that the public should pay for original, independent enterprise reporting, for online social networks that help them do their jobs or enjoy their communities, for journalism that keeps them up to date in depth on subjects of professional or personal interest, or particularly insightful commentary, great writing or reflections. We need to change the mentality of readers. Appeal to them to donate for journalism they find valuable online. Surely most daily readers glean $5 of value each month from the online publications they routinely read. Contributions of $5 a month or $60 a year from most readers would solve journalism's financial problems.
Even if only 10 percent of a heavily trafficked news website's visitors were willing to pay $5 a month, that would help a great deal. Say a news web site attracted two million unique visitors a month. About 10%, or 200,000 were willing to donate $5 a month -- that's a million dollars a month or $12 million dollars a year. That's a good chunk of change to run a profitable news operation. Previous:
I've been impressed recently by new web ads that don't just treat viewers as passive demographic targets, but as active partners who spread the word about the ads to their family, friends and colleagues. A friend forwarded me J.C. Penney's very clever "Beware the Doghouse." (Background news release). It is posted easily to a viewer's Facebook profile. One of the most successful viral ads I've seen was StrideGum's "Where the Hell is Matt?" which at this moment has had 17.6 million views on Youtube.com. Other interesting web ads can be found at http://great-ads.blogspot.com.
Facebook has also moved speedily into interactive advertising and viral marketing. It not only displays ads and brands to click through, it offers fan “pages” for brands and products. For example, when a movie ad appears on your Facebook page, you have the opportunity to learn more or to become a fan. When you click to become a fan, that action appears on your friends’ news feeds, which marketeers hope will pique their curiosity and cause them to click on the link or ad as well. Pretty soon there can be a bandwagon effect. "Why are so many of my friends interested in this movie / product? I'd better click to find out."
I got this tip from Harry Hoover of My Creative Team in Charlotte: "PitchEngine.com shakes up the PR industry making it possible for PR pros,
brands, and agencies to build and share digital, social media releases
with their contacts for free."
Paul Allen, founder of www.myfamily.com and www.ancestry.com, calls himself a "a serial social entrepreneur, trying to build businesses that improve the world and connect and strengthen families." He has 500+ connections on LinkedIn.com, and 2 million+ in his overall social network. On his blog he writes that there's "a huge opportunity" for Internet entrepreneurs to develop applications and spread them virally as sites like Facebook.com map "the social graph" -- the connections of real people all over the world to each other.
According to Facebook's About page, it's "a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet."
Facebook by early 2008 is projected to have 50 million users who log in at least once a month, and half of whom log in every day. Allen writes:
It's surprising that The Washington Post placed this piece, "Calling in Pros to Refine Your Google Image," on its front page, given that the techniques cited to improve one's online reputation are not so complex and the requests for "online reputation management" are not particularly new. I or most any tech-savvy communications professional could use these techniques.
"Marqui, a tiny Portland, Ore. software shop, began paying 21 bloggers $800 per month to post items about Marqui, while requiring them to disclose the payments. Marqui's listings soared on Google from 2,000 to 250,000 results." -- Daniel Lyons in Forbes (registration required).
"BuzzMarketing: Get People to Talk About Your Stuff," by Mark Hughes. In marketing, "give people something to talk about." What's entertaining, newsworthy or fascinating about your product? To capture attention, you have to break through the noise and clutter and competition from 23,000 other new products trying to get introduced and noticed. Emphasize the unusual, the outrageous, the hilarious, the remarkable, and secrets (both kept and revealed)..Be prepared that some conversations may be negative. "Walk in the shoes of your customers. You'll know your product better, you'll experience new emotions, and you'll find inspiration for new ideas."
It's difficult to understand modern media, and modern public relations, without examining the life and work of Edward Bernays, who died at age 103 in 1995. He believed that individuals in "free societies" are not really free thinkers. They do not have the time to be scholars, to think critically for themselves -- their minds are molded, their tastes formed, their ideas are suggested, by the media (ie, propaganda), by education (ie, indoctrination), by their psychological needs for systematic thinking, by a desire for order, by the language used to describe things in either an appealing or pejorative way. Without such conscious or unconscious manipulation, societies fall into eternal conflict, chaos and anarchy, he contended.
A public relations practitioner is a social scientist, an advisor to organizations, who helps to educate and win over the public, to accept social goods or concepts. He wrote:
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ... We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of."
Bernays' views were controversial, in direct opposition to the ideology of many journalists, who saw themselves as seekers of facts, objective truths, offering fairness and balance without hidden agendas, and letting the readers decide for themselves what they believe.