Last week Google decided to launch a salvo against the news industry by attacking plans by some outlets to introduce paywalls. Armed with an array of statistics Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian highlighted how “newspapers have never made much money from news” and that they could “save a lot of money if the primary access to news was via the internet.” In effect, what Varian was saying is that print is dead, bin the paper and move all your content online. Simple. But is he right and would such a strategy save the news and publishing industries?
Of course such an attack appeared designed to position Google as the saviour of these industries. Using statistics designed to confuse, Varian wanted people to see how referrals from Google news to publishers websites were helping outlets maximise their advertising revenue.
Personally I would question how Google is going about promoting its argument. After all, no industry likes to be kicked when they are down.
The fact of the matter is that the news and publishing industry is currently learning and experimenting how to make money from their presence online. Launching such an attack now is only designed to confuse an industry into making a premature decision.
At the recent London Financial Times Digital Media and Broadcast conference (#ftmedia10), Penguin’s CEO John Makinson presented a beautifully crafted showreel that highlighted everything that I personally believe in. The video gave industry opinion-formers that were present the argument from the perspective of the reader and consumer. The reel was designed for the publishing industry but is very much relevant to not just the news industry, but public relations. Reaching our audience is important, and while they might not be seen spending time on news sites they might still be talking about news on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking platforms.
The PR message on news sites ads authority to a client, a message on social networking sites adds presence. At the conference WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell outlined his view that social media is “less commercial phenomena, they are more personal phenomena.” Social media is not an area for advertising, but for public relations.
For public relations social media is a great new tool that through which clients can engage with its audience. And technology toys such as the iPad allow the news and publishing industry to reach out to audiences at home or work. Such items allow us to present more than words. It will allow us to promote in real-time. We’ve known about this channel and the opportunities it presents for some time. Today, clients are slowly changing how the communicate. They want to engage directly with consumers, either directly or through authoritative news outlets. What we have to make sure we do is to listen and talk, rather than just talk.