Norman Birnbach, President, Birnbach Communications
One of the ways smartphones has affected society is that most of us are now media junkies, whether it’s traditional media or social media. Most of us consume media at substantial – and surprising – rates each day. In Feb. on CommPRO.biz, we issued our top five media trends, based on our experience identifying media trends that goes back nearly two decades.
Understanding the media is vital, we feel, for the success of any marketing, PR, social media or thought leadership campaign. It can be important to understand the media, even if the trends don’t go in your direction. The reason: print newspapers and magazines as well as broadcast news have only a limited number of pages or minutes they need to fill; if they’re devoting most of their pages or air time for some other trend – let’s say, the midterm elections – they won’t have time to cover your news, trends or perspective.
Near the end of each year, we look at the trends we issued at the start of the year to see how we did so that we can learn and better advise our clients for the following year.
Here’s how we did with our media predictions for 2018.
- The news cycle will continue to speed up. We got this right: the news cycle has gotten faster and shorter, by which we mean there often seems like news breaks several times a day (it used to break once a day, if that) while only a handful of items remained top stories for several weeks. Today, the impact of most news dissipates before the next day. We expect that many people will start suffering from news fatigue next year, tired of constant news alerts on their phones. Grade: A.
- People will be more anxious and angry. We said, “The constant barrage of news, along with the need to comment or read others’ comments, is turning this into the Age of Anxiety and Anger,” and this obviously follows the shorter news cycle. We also said that screen addiction and being constantly barraged by alerts, “actually leaves most of us feeling more empty, worried and angry than before, even if factoring out politics.” We did see more coverage on stress, anxiety, mental health and ways to de-stress – and we expect more as the 2020 campaign approaches. Grade: A.
- 2018 will be tough for traditional and online media. While news consumption has increased, newspapers and magazines still haven’t developed a sustainable business model. There’s been bad news with local media; once thought of as safe based on the now-disproven premise that everyone is interested in their community, local newspapers have had a tough time. There’s a new term to describe this situation: new deserts, neighborhoods that have limited access to local news and information because there is no local news organization covering the area. Once thought to be limited to rural areas, there are even parts of New York City that have lost local print and online news sites and have been labeled news deserts. Grade: B+.
- Fake news won’t fade in 2018. Ah, we wish we were wrong about this. There are rumors, clickbait, satire, political bias, conspiracy sites – and that doesn’t classify all the flavors out there. We can’t even agree on a definition of fake news or on a solution to the problem. Algorithms alone won’t solve this problem, neither will regulating Facebook, Twitter and Google – though those may be helpful steps. This will continue to be a major problem for the U.S. as a democracy (all countries, actually) but it’s also a problem for companies who rely on faith in the media to help market their goods and services. We’re not sure of an answer but it’s important to be aware of this from a marketing perspective. Grade: A.
- Cord cutters won’t save money or money. This was more of a “fun” media trend. There are a growing number of streaming services but it’s still complicated to just watch TV and access all the different streaming options. It’s much easier to stream on a smartphone but you don’t get local news or sports as easily. (Some have complained about video that buffers or pixelates at key moments during a game.) Also, cord cutting is probably more expensive than cable, if you add in all the different services. Grade: B+.
Our grade for 2018 is an A-.
Unfortunately, we think all the media trends we identified will continue into 2019 and beyond. That’s the new normal when deal with the media, and much of it will make marketing harder. After all, most Americans these days have very short attention spans for news and a decreasing amount of trust in the media. Getting and keeping their attention will continue to be more of a challenge, especially for those organizations that think nothing’s changed. Marketing continues to be important but it requires new ways and approaches to break through the clutter.
About the Author: Norman Birnbach is the president of Birnbach Communications, www.birnbach.com, a Boston-based PR and social media agency focused on thought leadership that has been issuing annual predictions for nearly two decades. His blog, PR BackTalk, provides insights and attitude about PR, journalism and traditional and social media.