CB3 is working on a programme of training and advising for an Iraqi government Ministry. The remit is to prepare the Ministry’s communications department to conduct a PR campaign through ‘conventional’ or ‘mass’ media.
However, this does raise the question; today, what exactly is conventional media? In the good old days that meant the mainstream TV, radio and print outlets. But today, even in a post-conflict and developing nation like Iraq, the influence of digital capabilities is changing exactly how one gets the message through to the audience, both via the conventional media and directly.
Digital convergence means that the supply of information or copy to the conventional media no longer means relying upon the journalist, editor, camera and sound person of that media. With very few resources, digital copy can be prepared for direct use by that media. The distribution of a press release, followed by facilities, press conferences and/or interviews can now easily be supplemented by digital video packages, the video news release. In-house capacity building can allow the production of useable video, to be placed directly on the websites of conventional print, TV or even radio outlets. And given the pressures upon conventional media outlets, these moves will be welcome – the dietary requirements of conventional media are changing, fast.
Taking the UK as an example, in 2007, Tiscali noted that 63% of Uk adults would prefer to watch on-demand products on via the internet and MediaGuardian reported that 43% of UK internet users watch webTV – which takes into account much more than your traditional media providers such as BBC or SKY. More peple are accessing their information via the internet and from an increasing number of sources.
Further, those digital packages, ultimately flexible, can be distributed via digitally networked media – YouTube, facebook, itunes etc, and incorporated into wider campaigns. Yes, that’s using user-generated content sites. Why? Because if you’re going digital on the web, it’s worthwhile remembering that, of the top 100 global websites the top 70% of websites are content-based, and of those,70% are user-generated (from Alexa).
Bottom line – In Europe and the US digital broadcasting is growing massively, and the trend is taking effect in other areas of the world. With less than half a million landlines in Afghanistan but approaching 6 million cutting edge mobile phones, and with internet usage almost doubling in the last two years, this is already happening. A comprehensive 2008 report on Pakistan’s new media habits, from the MIT Media Lab, tends to cement this perspective. There may be a degree of ‘digital divide’ but it is narrowing and the dietary requirements of the recipient audiences, the man on the street, are also changing rapidly.
Those who are waking up to the digital broadcast reality are taking it one step further. Instead of providing copy or spokespersons directly for the traditional media, they are producing their own content and hosting it themselves. Produce good stuff, which can be seen as untainted with propagandistic rhetroric, and the conventional media (and user-generated sphere) will soon be feeding off organisations’ websites. Why spend money and time on cameramen and journalists when the organisations who ‘get it’ are providing useable digital content anyway? Of course, the critical capacity of journalism is still required, but extended provision of good copy, which can be further investigated, cannot be a bad thing
For the communications practitioner, almost anywhere in the world, this represents three approaches to dealing with conventional media – servicing the digital requirements of traditional media outlets, taking part in the external user-generated environment and providing one’s own digital outlet.
Basic conventional media techniques are no longer enough. The information environment is now criss-crossed with intertwining networks, including the conventional media. Dealing with the conventional media in isolation, through the once acceptable tunnel-visioned approach, just won’t cut it anymore – even in the less developed and post-conflict areas of the world.