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2011 predictions: new platforms and traces of engagement

Photo of Japanese "kadomatsu" New Year's decoration courtesy of Wikipedia

It’s the beginning of the year and that means everyone is making resolutions, coming up with predictions and trying to forecast what’s ahead in 2011. While the most exciting news is usually the most unpredictable, there are some things worth looking forward to in 2011. At CisionBlog, we’ve jolted our bloggers out of their holiday stupors and asked them to share their insights about what’s in store for 2011. Over the next week, we’ll include some insight about a particular trend to keep an eye on during 2011. Yesterday, Heidi predicted hyperlocal, broadcast and digital education would move to the forefront. Today, Jay Krall discusses new platforms and engagement

PR pros will tailor their pitches to new digital platforms. The devices on which we consume news changed faster in 2010 than ever before. With 13 million iPads sold over the past 9 months and Android devices eclipsing the iPhone on a meteoric rise to a 26 percent share of the smartphone market, publishers are faced with an unprecedented challenge: constantly adapting their content to a growing variety of platforms in the fiercely competitive mobile device market. And the target keeps moving, with a leak from Google this week that it intends to launch a digital newsstand to streamline the experience of reading digital magazines on Android devices.

For publishers, making all this innovation worthwhile means ensuring that if they build it (say, an iPad or Android app), the readers will come. Exclusive content is the carrot that some publications are dangling to get readers to pay for these apps, including Wired and Nylon (Gourmet was even relaunched as an iPad-only publication following the shuttering of its print edition). That means savvy PR pros will increasingly look to pitch story ideas with these platform-specific, premium editions in mind, and adapt their pitches to a section or recurring feature exclusive to the digital edition.

With 18 percent of Internet users now reporting they have paid for news content, according to a new Pew study, premium editions on new platforms will become more attractive for publishers and PR pros alike. Meanwhile, our measurement strategies will continue to adapt too, as evidenced by the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ recent move to incorporate subscriber counts from iPad and mobile editions into its reporting.

New indicators of engagement will evolve our approach to PR measurement. In 2010, Facebook’s Open Graph initiative allowed Web publishers everywhere to integrate the Facebook “Like” button on their pages. Almost overnight, this turned Facebook into a powerful source of referral traffic for more than 2 million sites that now allow visitors to push a mention of a Web page into their stream of updates with a single click. Just as quickly, the move helped reshape the Web as we know it, contributing to Facebook’s acquisition of every fourth page view by U.S. Internet users before year’s end. After all, with friends pointing you to all the most important news of the day right from your Facebook news feed, who needs RSS readers?

Fortunately for PR, the Open Graph project also had the effect of serving as a massive feedback system, providing indicators of the level of interest in the articles, blog posts and videos where there brands are discussed. Despite the regrettable nounification of a verb, the availability of Facebook “Likes” as an engagement metric has come to augment signals like comments, inbound links and votes on social news sites as indicators of interest in a particular piece of content. In 2011, this and other new traces of engagement will increasingly be used to tell us whether anyone cared about that blog post review of a new product.

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