Required Reading: Trends In News Consumption

The folks at Pew Research Center released a humdinger of study yesterday. If you know or work with someone that doubts that social, online and mobile are what will define the future of news, print this whole report out and give it to them.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The part you want to highlight is right here:

That’s right, a thirteen percent decrease in TV news viewing, a twenty-three percent decline for newspapers, a twenty-one percent decrease for radio news.

Online and mobile news? In just eight years, the percent of those surveyed who got news today from online or mobile sources ROSE from twenty-four percent to thirty-nine percent.

In Silicon Valley terms, they call that “hockey stick growth.” The crazy thing about the growth in social news consumption is that it builds on itself. As more and more people use it and share news on their social networks, more and more people will get used to finding news online. From the report (I added the emphasis):

The second major trend in online news consumption is the rise of news on social networks. Today, 19% of the public says they saw news or news headlines on social networking sites yesterday, up from 9% two years ago. And the percentage regularly getting news or news headlines on these sites has nearly tripled, from 7% to 20%.

The article continues for FIVE MORE PAGES. Demographic studies, specific breakdowns of types of media (cable news is declining, weekly magazines rising), attitudes toward news, consumption habits (Did you know the older you are the more likely you are to get your news on a set schedule? Younger folks graze throughout the day.), on and on and on! For folks counting on the media landscape continuing as it has over the last twenty years, well, the research isn’t describing a pleasant future. We should start integrating this knowledge today.

Social Media, Replacement Referees And Crisis Comms

For those of us addicted to football (American football, my overseas friends), the current season has been tough to deal with. Due to a contract issue, the National Football League has locked their referees out and have installed replacement refs to adjudicate the games.

The results have been, as anticipated, not pretty. At the end of this week’s Monday night game (for my football fans that’s typically the biggest game of the week), the Seattle Seahawks quarterback heaved a pass to the end zone, hoping to score on the final play and win the game. A Green Bay Packers player seemingly came down with the ball, which was then wrestled away by a Seahawks player. One of the replacement referees called the play a touchdown, another called it an interception. In either case, the game was over, and who won was contingent upon the referees call.

The refs ruled that the Seahawks won. The social media world subsequently exploded.

A number of Green Bay Packers players tweeted their displeasure.

You can see in the picture above how, after midnight on the East Coast, how large of a response that event generated. The reason I post on this is the following line in a TechCrunch article posted this afternoon:

[T]he point is that NFL players took to Twitter first to voice their displeasure, rather than talking to mainstream press on camera. The tide has changed for how people communicate, and this is a perfect example.

I think that anyone who has been paying attention to crisis communications has seen this shift taking place. It’s just really nice to see that in stark terms (with pictures!) on a topic that a wide majority of Americans are interested in.

Update from Heather Brink (devoted Packers fan): According to the Twitter blog, the play in question generated more than one million tweets, and TJ Lang (the most vociferous tweeter in this matter) had more than 150,000 retweets himself. Truly viral.

Death To The Campaign!

When I started this Your Audience is a Lie thing, I was hoping to parlay it into a nice little series. Unfortunately, before I could finish it with my bold prediction of what your jobs as government communicators will look like in a few years, one of the smartest and most dedicated people I know in health communications beat me to the punch. Alex Bornkessel, who runs an amazing MS charity with her family, called for death to the campaign this past weekend and I couldn’t agree more.

This idea that campaign-focused communications actively works against our goals of affecting real change (whether it be health-focused, preparedness-focused, or some other goal) in two different ways. First, it assumes that our audience is there, available, placid and interested, during the time we decide they should hear our messages. If they are otherwise ready to lose weight, or set up a communications plan, or change the batteries in their smoke detectors, except for some family crisis that happens during our predefined “campaign time,” then they don’t get the message that they need to change their behavior. (This is a HUGE reason I despise days, weeks and months that celebrate or raise awareness for something; what, tuberculosis doesn’t matter the other 364 days of the year?)

The other reason only communicating through campaigns is harmful is, in my estimation, infinitely worse. Say your timing works out and you get lucky and actually find someone who was patiently waiting for your message. Not only that, but the message is specifically tailored to the group she self-identifies with (because you’re still marketing to audiences and not everyone), and she takes action on it. She’s moved from Contemplation to Preparation based solely on your messaging. Congratulations! But, what happens when you end your campaign? Specifically, what happens to this wonderful person that you’ve prepped to be ready to move forward and actually change her behavior? Does she not move to the Action stage? Does she resent your messaging for leaving her hanging, alone? Is she willing to wait another year for you to become interested in her problem again? Will she even listen next time?

Alex puts the problem into specific relief here, and even offers the solution we’ve been talking about:

Traditional mass media models that follow TV PSAs, direct mail, radio announcements and the like allow us to safely distance ourselves from the nitty-gritty hard work of transforming our world. It puts us a hands distance from actually interacting with and serving our people. It’s time to roll up our sleeves.

Our work is no longer about building a one-and-done campaign, but about creating shared experiences and building movements. To build bridges, we have to walk side-by-side with those we want to not only reach, but truly engage.

Her post is called Shifting from Campaign to Cause, which is sublime in it’s understanding of the problem. If we really want to affect change, we have to believe that our message is good enough for everyone, whenever they are ready to hear it, and understand that they’ll have questions and concerns and complaints and praise, and that it’s part of our job to find those comments and questions important and valid and respond to them.

Honestly, if we’re not invested enough in our work to do that, why are we even messaging?