News & Opinion
Real News Strikes Back: 18 Stories in PR and the Media to Look Out for in 2018
Real News will strike back in 2018 and is already doing so. The New York Times, The Economist and Wall Street Journal are all now making real money digitally and print circulations remain significant. The same goes for titles ranging from the i to Private Eye and a resurgent, Jeff-Bezos-owned Washington Post. The Times of London is financially stronger behind a pay wall that did not work for The Sun. Readers are even responding to The Guardian’s desperate plea for cash to help support its journalism.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will come under real pressure to actually step in and protect users from fake news, trolls, abuse and worst of all, terrorism. The customary insouciance with which they decline to help authorities wears increasingly thin with every terror attack, or latest evidence of Russian - assisted fake news. Will they agree to regulate before they are legislated against?
The whole programmatic world will continue to come under the scrutiny that began last year. P&G and Unilever have led the charge much to the chagrin of agency holding companies like WPP. Expect other marketers to cut online marketing spends if only as an experiment to see if makes any difference. Online safety will be the fig leaf for this.
GDPR legislation will be more significant than anyone imagines – although by May 25th, we may be sick to death of hearing about it. Expect data privacy to be framed as a Brexit issue.
New media will start to look like old media. Buzzfeed missed its targets and laid off dozens of staff, more than a third of its UK workforce. Mashable sold for $50m, having been valued at $250m a year ago. Who is next? Could the spotlight fall on Vice, particularly in the loss-making UK, where Viceland television has made little impact and global management is suddenly under scrutiny as the sexual harassment allegations snowball.
Big agency brands will disappear as WPP, Publicis and others rationalize under the weight of the same budget cuts that are giving succor to the rise of boutique PR agencies. Project work on campaigns will become the new normal and zero-based budgeting will grow. Management consultancies will continue to park their tanks on the lawn of ad agencies in particular.
Marketing communications agencies of all kinds will continue to hype Artificial Intelligence, VR, and AR. They need to talk about this stuff in a bid to appear relevant and help stave off those tanks.
The sexual harassment story is just beginning: PR, advertising and marketing are relatively untouched by scandals - yet. It can’t continue. Too many know too much anecdotally. NDAs will begin to unravel. Big names will fall – just as they have begun to at media owners.
Diversity, in all its guises, will rightly continue to be ever more of an issue as marketers wake up to the changed profile of their consumer and just how much money they are missing out on. Revelations in April re Gender Pay Gap disparities will be embarrassing for some. Everyday ageism will somehow still be unnoticed.
“Purpose” will be an even bigger buzzword, leading to genuine opportunities for agency suppliers as corporates need help as they scramble to find out what their purpose actually is.
Bitcoin will continue to be the biggest story that neither the media nor its audiences understand. Expect marketers to use Bitcoin in their communications regardless – until the bubble bursts.
Sports rights will be a new “Bitcoin” as streaming valuations soar. They offer a last throw of the dice for the likes of Twitter to actually generate some real revenues on the back of losing NFL streaming rights to Amazon. Twitter and Sky can’t match the muscle of Amazon, Facebook and Google as they bid for the Premier League’s holy grail.
The acrimony surrounding Brexit will get worse, much worse, before it gets better on the back of hard-won progress in negotiations. Expect to see “sneering” become one of the words of 2017, usually misused when what’s really going on is legitimate criticism. That blue passport is just the beginning.
Trump’s overturning of the Obama administration’s safeguards for net neutrality will belatedly become “a thing” in 2017, having somehow become lost in all the noise about tax and Russia in the back end of last year. When ordinary people start having to pay to use the internet, we will wake up to what the legislation really means. It’s a vital story for print media too.
The ubiquity of social media will see marketers increasingly ask their follower audiences to create and distribute their messaging for them, accumulating vast amounts of data in the meantime. But...
Instagram-Influencers and other KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) will be increasingly scrutinised, both for their ethics and their – currently – vague ROI. The party may soon be over, as quality not quantity of followers becomes the focus.
As should be clear from the above, “trust” in all manners of business behaviour is going to be ever more under the spotlight. PR needs to bounce back from the Bell Pottinger debacle. Marketing trade bodies can no longer be merkins. Industry leaders need to speak up for PR.
Maybe, just maybe, practitioners will no longer dissemble and be proud to call themselves PR agencies again.
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