The changing world of media

The world that we, the current generation, have all grown up in is changing.

We are used to the power of mass communication being vested in television, radio, newspapers and publications. Now, as the pace of the internet revolution shows no sign of slowing, we are seeing a real shift in that power.

Social media offers an additional means to reach mass audiences

Our new ‘social media’ landscape includes new features such as blogs, websites like YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace, Bebo and the sensation of the moment, Twitter. You dismiss these media as frivolous at your peril. Social media websites have been at the core of campaigns that have rocked multinationals.

Some have called it the ‘democratisation of media’.

In the past, breaking news involved journalists and editors with access to sophisticated communications networks and equipment. Now, news events can be broadcast around the world on the internet using nothing more than a mobile phone.

The classic example was when the US Airways flight crash landed on the Hudson River in January this year. The first reports were circulated around the world on Twitter. The first picture was on the web a good 15-minutes before the news channels’ helicopters were on the scene. As 7,000 people scrambled to see the picture, the server collapsed under the strain.

Even the news media themselves are recognising the extraordinary power of this ‘social media’ revolution.

Many of them now “tweet” their stories on Twitter to draw people to their coverage. Some journalists now confirm that monitoring the social media for breaking news is part of their daily routine.

Business has to take this revolution on board too. If effective communication with mass audiences is part of the strategy, social media must be considered. That’s why organisations like Microsoft now employ staff bloggers to ensure they get their message out online. That’s the positive aspect of the social media revolution.

But we also have to consider the downside. The communication power in building, maintaining and enhancing reputations is moving further away from the organisations concerned.

Whereas the traditional media had all sorts of editorial checks and controls built in, ‘social media’ may not.

Using their new mass communication power, individuals and pressure groups with their own particular agenda, can project messages around the world, while sheltering behind the relative anonymity of the web.

© Ken McEwen Public Relations, 2009.
No unauthorised reproduction without full acknowledgement of source. All rights reserved.

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