Communications trends for 2014 – media ownership, hyperlocal strategies and collaborative consumption

Communications trends for 2014 – media ownership, hyperlocal strategies and collaborative consumption

If for a moment we can indulge the metaphor, communications is like a forest – an ever-changing entity that lives, breathes and expands with new paths presenting themselves while others change direction. Sometimes cutting your own way pays off; other times it’s best to take the route laid out by others.

2014 will be another year of huge change to the way individuals and companies communicate. Some of the most dynamic and enjoyable conversations in the n2n office are around how we help clients navigate the mire. Some of the answers haven’t presented themselves but there are a few new trends and events we’re keeping a close eye on.

Challengers to the Fairfax/ News Corp dominance – the current state of print has been well documented, so the launch of a new weekly newspaper in the form of Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper will be closely watched by many. (Coincidentally, the new paper will launch the same day Fairfax’s weekend Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers will go compact.) Its longevity will test many current theories.

Blurred lines – largely in response to business challenges, partnerships (such as Mail Online and Mi9), and cross-functional journalists are just two examples of how – in terms of content – it will become increasingly difficult to tell where one outlet starts and another finishes. (Fairfax provides a strong example of resource-sharing, not only with journalists from The Australian Financial Review crossing into the business pages of The SMH and The Age but boss Garry Linnell hosting breakfast on Fairfax-owned radio station 2UE.) Content will need to be broader and deeper to suit large and diverse audience segments.

Financial influence – building on the above, advertising and the financial backing of online news sites will continue to court controversy. Increasingly it’s the communicator’s job to not only know the journalist and audience, but ownership as it may impact editorial decisions – despite what sites may claim.

Hyperlocal strategies – content consumption via tablet, app and mobile means people want targeted or personalised information, products, services and news. An even greater understanding of smaller audience segments will be required to ensure success here, along with technical knowledge of tools such as cookies. The flipside is greater attention on privacy and how collected data is used, shared and stored.

Collaborative consumption – the sharing and renting of products or services is not a new idea butaccessibility and range has exploded in recent years thanks to the internet. Word of mouth has always been critical as an influencer of behaviour change and product choices, so the challenge for communicators will be how to harness it.

Discipline collaboration – there’s a lot of talk about integrated campaigns, however achieving these requires collaboration between disciplines. To meet the requirement of breadth and depth advertising, marketing, public relations and social all need to play together in the sandpit. This can mean multiple agencies or divisions, and duplication of skills. Identifying the service options to achieve integrated campaigns is the challenge for any project manager. In-house or multiple agencies? Led by marketing, or communications?

At risk of labouring on the idea, it really is a jungle out there. Some ideas are outlined above, and we’ll discuss a few strategies in more detail throughout the year, but navigating the landscape will largely require organisations to be agile, with ability to respond and adapt to a fast-changing landscape. This means ensuring communication functions have the capacity to be nimble, and draw on a diverse range of skills and strong analytics in place to measure the effectiveness of campaigns – and adapt them as required.