One into both categories, and so there are

One cannot overemphasize the place of the
mass media in contemporary society. Since its beginnings, the mass media has
grown exponentially in size and influence, because of constant innovations in technology
that supports their operations. Consequently, from the days of newspapers, to
radio, to television, and since the 1980s, the Internet, the mass media has
undergone several transformations and transmutations which have impacted
significantly on its role and place in society (Straubhaar & LaRose, 2002).
The most current trend in mass media technology is the internet as well as
mobile phones and other related technologies that can be classified as ‘new
media’ (Sunday, 2008).

At the time when newspapers
were the main method of getting news, journalists led conversations. Conversations
are still driven by journalists, but as more people get their news via social media,
it is influencers – people you trust enough to follow – who spread them. The rise
of the internet and social web has allowed more people to become influencers, sometimes
in very niche segments with a massive online audience. There are many faces of
influencers. An editor of newspaper is arguably as much an influencer as a
celebrity, as is an academic or highly viewed YouTuber as PewDiePie. Therefore, the definition of an influencer often
needs to be clearly defined for each influencer marketing programme, to
establish the marketing objectives and to focus which individuals, for
example, fit into a PR media outreach remit and what constitutes a social
influencer. This can differ for each brand and campaign.   

We have come to understand that the line
between social media and traditional media is blurring. Traditional-media
national-newspapers are now available in print as well as online, and these
online articles directly link to social channels (Facebook, Twitter and
LinkedIn). Similarly, the line between what constitutes ‘media outreach’
through a journalist versus ‘social media influencer outreach’ through a
journalist, is an issue that can cause debate. Arguably a journalist fits into
both categories, and so there are many facets of who constitutes an influencer
which is creating crossovers. Whilst the definition of what constitutes an
influencer is dependent upon a marketing objective and the structural
organisation in relation to the PR and communications department with regards
to crossover.

There are varying definitions of convergence,
but in most incantations, it is the blending of old media, (e.g., traditional
media such as magazines, newspapers, television, cable, and radio) with new
media (computers and the Internet) to deliver content. Convergence is an
elusive term that is used in multiple contexts, and is often ambiguous in its
definition. Jenkins (2001) argues convergence is not a simplistic statement of
electronically retrieving information but occurs on multiple levels through
five processes: technological, economic, social, global, and cultural
convergence. Seib (2001) states, “convergence involves marrying the
slick format of television to the almost infinite information-providing
capacity of the Internet” (p. 7). Andrew Nachison of the American
Press Institute’s Media Center defines convergence as “the strategic, operational,
product and cultural union of print, audio, video and interactive
digital information services and organizations” (Nachison, A. 2002,
pers. comm., 9 Aug.).

The list of convergence definitions is
consistent in the discussion of blending technological capabilities to deliver
content on multiple platforms through computer driven distribution systems. Convergence
is the window of opportunity for traditional media to align itself with
technologies of the 21st century. The digitization of media and information
technology and the ensuing transformation of communication media are major
contributors to convergence (Gershon 2000; Fidler 1997).

The ACMA defines media convergence as
‘the phenomenon where digitization of content, as well as standards and technologies
for the carriage and display of digital content, are blurring the traditional
distinctions between broadcasting and other media across all elements of the
supply chain, for content generation, aggregation, distribution and audiences’.
The ACMA identifies a key consequence of convergence for consumers as being a
substantial increase in ‘the availability of media content online – from
broadcasters, news organizations, social media sites, iTunes and YouTube, to
name a few of the main media sources – on an increasing array of connected
devices and screens. The choice of devices for accessing the internet and 3G
and wireless broadband networks is also giving users flexibility in how and
where they consume media’.

Deuze (2004) looks at the definition
of convergence from the position of ‘multimedia journalism’. This, according to
him, is the integration and presentation of media products through different
media. He also refers as the horizontal integration of media, which in this
case involves both traditional and digital media. This bears some semblance to
cross media ownership, where one establishment (or owner) operates different
media forms (Raufu, 2003).

Digital technology compresses
information and allows text, graphics, photos, and audio to be transmitted
effectively and rapidly across media platforms. The phenomenal growth of the
Internet from the introduction of the Mosaic graphical browser to PDF files,
audio and streaming video has resulted in a rapid expansion of online content.
Changing demographics and competing messages have made the Internet
particularly attractive to traditional print and broadcast media who have
sought to protect brand name and their historical specialty of gathering and
disseminating news, information, and entertainment.

The integration of content across
media platforms to connect users is part of the goal of convergence in media
organizations. ‘This is all in its infancy and It’s happening because
newspapers are seeing subscriptions declining and TV stations are
watching viewers decline and they figure that if they can cross promote
each other and share resources, they can attract new audiences and
save money,’ according to James Gentry, dean of the University of Kansas
School of Journalism (Wendland 2001, p. 11). Gentry states by 2001 there were 50
media partnerships or affiliations across the U.S. practicing convergence, and
the lure for the media companies ‘is increased advertising revenue
brought about by higher ratings, more subscribers, or more website traffic’
(Wendland 2001, par. 10). There is an economic and philosophical duality to
the convergence goal for media organizations that seek to capture users and
audiences for their online and offline business units.

The current debate revolves around the
issue of whether media organizations are in the content business and what are
the complimentary channels to deliver that content. Convergence is driven by
the intersection of content delivery through different platforms, but what
content gets there and how in that combination of text, audio, and video is
central to the decision. The interactivity provided with online content
delivered by the computer is enticing. The old one-way model of mass
communication from one source to many, must adjust in the converged world to a
two-way communication from many individuals in an interactive new media
environment.

In the early days in print and broadcast
newsrooms, access to the Internet at workstations was not widespread; today in
the world of computer-assisted reporting it is the norm. At the matching stage,
for media organizations it was the development of online divisions with staff
and resources within the organization or as separate business units. At the
redefining/restructuring stage, the dot.com bust of 2001 translated in media
organizations cutting staff in their online divisions (Moses, 2001). The
clarifying stage is the surge in the focus on convergence in the media
industry. For example, training journalists across business units, or newspaper
photographers and broadcast camera operators become videographers. A business
strategy at many media outlets in 2002 was a push for online registration of
web sites, in some instances a paid/fee hybrid is in place for certain premium
content (Sullivan, 2003). The fifth stage, routinizing is still unfolding for
media organizations as they deliberate over strategies and best practices to
propel the organizations into the future.

Amobi (2014) identifies several benefits of
media convergence. Citing Deuze (2004) and Verweij (2009), she posits that the
convergence “offers more opportunities for the public to be more informed and
involved in a story, and offer the reporter and the editor more integrated
tools to tell the story” (Amobi, 2014:25). She adds that convergence has transformed
media organizations from what she termed ‘lone rangers’ into multimedia ‘team
players’, ultimately enhancing their output. Convergence promotes
interactively, she highlights, and aids to combine to greater effect the “depth
of newspaper coverage, the immediacy of television, and the interactivity of
the Web”. There are different examples of new media such as the Internet,
mobile phones, videoconferencing, e-mail, chat rooms, online newspapers/
newsmagazines among host of others. These different types of new media have one
way or the other affected media relations practice. Media relations
practitioners while using new media can work more effectively and efficiently.
This is because it has proven that new media help to increase work efficiency
and speed as well as reduce cost. Moreover, new media enable media relations
practitioners to communicate with the media in a new and creative ways which
would go a long way in creating confidence in not just the media but their
publics as well. Another important promise of new media is the “democratization”
of the creation, publishing, distribution and consumption of media content.
This means that everyone, and anyone, who has the access and means to new media
technology can create and control the dissemination of media messages.

New media like the internet and mobile phone
among others make for two –way communication which is the core aim of good
media relations. Ayankojo (2001) recalls that “there are chat rooms for virtual
discussion where users have opportunities to talk on-line” with the
organizations having the websites. A message typed and sent within a chat room
appears almost at the same time on the computers of other users in the same
chat room, 24hours daily. New media also encourage feedback and interactivity.
Take the mobile phones for instance, these new media give media relations
practitioners’ means to interact with reporters and get immediate feedback as
the case maybe. In addition, the web, Rodney (2005) observes is “interactive in
nature.” Furthermore, Lievrouw and Livingstone (2006) state that new media give
users the means to generate, seek and share content selectively, and to
interact with other individuals and groups on a scale that was impracticable
with traditional means.” In short, the immediacy, responsiveness and social
presence of interaction in most new media constitute a huge opportunity for
media relations.

Influencers have a new
meaning for the PR industry. While it’s hardly a new idea, PR pros are placing
a greater emphasis on influencers in the digital age. In our industry, we
are always seeking out influential people to advocate on behalf of our clients,
and due to today’s consumption of media, influencers have evolved. Today, PR
pros can expect to find themselves in a constant mix of traditional and
non-traditional influencers. Despite the similarities of traditional media and
social media influencers, it’s important to recognize the differences between
the two. Anyone can be an influencer today. If you want to write about a topic,
you just do it. The great thing about having access to so many different
digital age influencers is it allows you to grow relationships with the best
people for their specific markets and industries.  Information is
less centralized than it used to be. Due to the spread of content across the
Internet, PR professionals have to dig deeper to find contacts. Luckily, there
are powerful tools to make it easier to spot influencers on the web.  

Most influencers aren’t
journalists, and not all journalists are influencers. But sometimes their
powers are combined in a super-influential hybrid who drives conversations.

They are opinion
leaders and trendsetters. Influencers are the people who are always up to date
on what’s current and are deemed as a credible and reliable source of
information.  Traditional influencers such as journalists and digital
age influencers have the ability to reach mass amounts of people, and hold a
great deal of power on how your client can be perceived.  At the end of
the day finding the right influencers in the digital age takes the same
diligence and practice as traditional media, yet working with digital age influencers
calls for PR professionals to be ready to enter new territory. 

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