By Saskia Whelan
Gone are the days when families gathered round the TV to watch the news. Why would you? Unless it’s breaking news, you’ve already seen the story. You’ve checked your Facebook, you’ve scrolled through your Twitter, and you’ve browsed the web to get up to speed with world news before you’ve even stepped off the train home. The news is now in your pocket. It’s available instantly, and with the advent of social media streaming, the news doesn’t need to be broken to you, it’s constantly breaking before your very eyes.
So how does the traditional news broadcaster compete with this? With the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism revealing that 46% of 18-24 years olds prefer to consume news on their smartphone, and 28% make social media their first stop for the latest headlines, broadcast media now has to work harder to remain relevant. In a world of limitless information, news organisations are no longer competing with each other, they’re competing with everyone.
The strategy for news broadcasters, as outlined by Sky News’ Head of News Gathering Jonathan Levy at the Shout! Communications Big Talk 2016 has been to incorporate and expand. For instance, 2015 saw Sky News take to Snapchat, the image messaging app that lets you compile pictures and short clips into ‘stories’. Sky News has been using Snapchat to provide quick-fire news updates that are as easily consumable, and won’t interrupt your busy schedule of taking selfies with dog-ear filters for too long. But rather than being just a quick alternative, social media news is being geared towards attracting viewers to on-air broadcast news updates. For Facebook, this could mean posting short video snippets of a longer programme to entice people into watching the whole thing. Alex Chandler from ITV News, who also spoke at the Shout! Communications Big Talk, emphasised that it is no longer the job of news broadcasters to just read the news but provide context and further explanation. While they may have already seen the news, TV and radio allows viewers to digest it, and develop their understanding.
Perhaps the biggest phenomenon in the broadcast news landscape, initially written off as a flash-in-the-pan fad, is the use of live-streaming. Even the BBC is in on the act, streaming content on Facebook and Twitter via Facebook Live and Periscope. Around 44% of young people are heading to Facebook to watch, but more importantly, share and comment on news. With the costs of streaming tumbling thanks to these social media apps, it’s now a medium that can fit any style of news bulletin; from ‘citizen journalism’ from a smartphone for instant footage at the heart of the story, to professional, multi-camera streams as seen on the Financial Times.
Radio has been revitalised thanks to these simple, financially viable streaming options. Radio 1 regularly draws huge audiences to their live content via iPlayer, and LBC, one of the leading players in news and current affairs radio, has permanent cameras set up in the studio to capture the best moments, and share them on social media to draw audiences.
So how has PR for broadcast changed accordingly? Thanks to these blurring of mediums, the outlets for broadcast PR companies have multiplied. There is now a second chance to secure coverage, as broadcasters are live-streaming content for TV and Radio, but also creating separate, alternative online content for social media.
It is still a new, secondary outlet for most broadcasters, so the budget for streaming and social media coverage won’t compete with traditional broadcasting just yet, but it is certainly catching up. An opportunity arises for PR agencies, like Shout! Communications, to offer a full range of content to support a story. By including visuals, interview clips, and B-Roll, there is plenty of content to cover the on-air and online spectrum. Agencies that can offer a comprehensive package are going to be well favoured in the eyes of news networks, since the hard work is already done.
This shift in direction from radio and TV news broadcasting is arguably the biggest development since colour broadcasting. It has entirely transformed the way news is consumed and produced, and broadcasters and PR agencies have to move with the times, or else get left behind.
The Shout! Communications Big Talk featured speakers from the BBC, ITV and Sky News on this subject. Click here to see more of what they had to say: