Nieman Labs Visits the Times R&D Group Last Year
Mercedes Bunz of The Guardian had an interesting piece last week on how media companies and newspapers are evolving into technology companies. It opened with a poignant quote from New York Times executive editor Bill Keller (even if you don’t necessarily believe it).
“The New York Times is now as much a technology company as a journalism company.”
While we might expect this sentiment from other forward-looking media outlets, the idea that the Times values technology as much as quality journalism is telling. Of course they’re hardly alone. Every traditional media company is examining the technology opportunities that lie in front of them. Bunz’s piece also looks at the success that CNN had with driving engagement and crowd-sourcing through its iPhone application and specifically its iReport button. Wired magazine drew praise at SXSW for its technological interpretation of a digital magazine on the forthcoming iPad. Everywhere you look there seems to be another media company testing a new technology.
While the “media meltdown” hasn’t directly affected public relations and communications agencies quite like it has media companies, the same focus on technology is pressing for the industry. After all, communications, and marketing as a whole, are tied at the hip to the future of the media industry. Just as technology is becoming more and more an integral part of doing good journalism, technology is becoming more and more an integral part of doing good PR. I’m not just talking about run-of-the-mill uses of existing and mainstream social platforms, such as: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. I’m talking about re-envisioning how to reach media and more importantly consumers in the digital age. Much in the way the New York Times has to think about the problem.
And there is some innovation out there. With the evolution of PitchEngine, Jason Kintzler is re-envisioning not only what the evolution of the press release looks like, but what a social media platform should look like for PR practitioners. Steven Greenwood at Drop.io is looking at new ways for practitioners to easily display and share rich media and multi-media files. A group from Denmark created a mobile app for practitioners that allows users to track brand and company mentions by the hour. MyMedia Info announced today a PR and media application for the iPhone, which allows practitioners access to a database of journalists’ contact information on the go from their mobile device.
These are not only the tools and services that agencies should be looking at from vendors, but the technology that they should be investing in to create on their own.
The agencies and practitioners that will be around for the next technology bubble will be those who can honestly say like Keller (without PR spin), “we’re as much a technology company as we are a communications agency.”