Several years ago, I heard futurist Daniel Burrus speak at an industry event. Since then, I’ve followed his Technotrends newsletter. I find his insight fascinating and overwhelming, all in one.
Burrus recently shared his “Top 20 Technology-Driven Trends for 2012.” One is “social business takes on a new level of urgency as organizations shift from an information age ‘informing’ model to a communication age ‘communicating and engaging’ model.” He also said 2012 is when electronic books, newspapers and magazines “pass the tipping point, due to the abundance of smartphones with readable displays, tablets that provide a full color experience, and publishers providing apps that give a better than paper experience by including cut, copy, paste, print, and multimedia capabilities.”
A couple of weeks ago, a Burrus article in Technorati focused on the future of newspapers. Advertising was down 7.3% in 2011, he said, a point higher than 2010’s drop. Surprising, he wrote, “was that it was only down that much.
The newspaper business is, unfortunately, focused on the second word, ‘paper,’ instead of the first word, ‘news.’ As a result, they are still making their online news static rather than dynamic, meaning that it is still one-dimensional. The online versions of most newspapers are nothing more than a piece of paper online.”
He’s not the only one who sees the demise of print. A New York Times blogger wrote that, in his second day of testimony during a British inquiry into media ethics, Rupert Murdoch said newspapers will exist as print versions for 20 more years, but with very small circulations. “And the day will come when we’ll just have to say, ‘It’s not working, we can’t afford all the trucks, we can’t afford all the huge presses and so on,’ and we’ll be purely electronic,” Murdoch said.
In his Technorati piece, Burrus asked why newspapers aren’t getting more social. “Local newspapers are about local news,” he wrote. “Yet I don’t see that social component appearing in most outlets. In the newspaper world, that could be very innovative, since so few of them are doing it currently.”
How does this relate to our industry? We don’t have insurance newspapers, per se, but we do have print publications. For the most part, they’re trying to go beyond static and aiming for dynamic. Some, I suspect, would like to get even more social and interactive. Part of what’s holding them back is us—the people in the industry who make, share and consume news.
We can do something to support the evolution from “informing” to “communicating and engaging.” For starters, interact. Respond to blog posts. Comment on articles. Share links with others—directly via email, on Twitter, on Facebook, or on any other platform. Provide links on your website to industry publications, if it makes sense to do so.
Second, engage with publishers on social media platforms. Most have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Like or follow them, and then be, well, social. Make social media more social.
Third, offer publications digital content. We have been able to work a number of clients to develop articles designed exclusively for online use. Understanding what editors and publishers need to build their online, interactive presence helps us do that.
Fourth, go beyond print—or digital print. Consider creating and offering podcasts and even video casts to online publications. We’ve seen how using audio and video can generate good response from folks throughout our industry.
Finally, consider digital media in your ad budget, if you have one. If sites offer visibility worthy of your investment in content development, they provide the same reach for paid ads and banners.
We may not all be hanging out in the insurance business long enough to see print disappear altogether, using Murdoch’s timeline. That doesn’t mean we can’t help breathe life into the efforts our publications are making today to reach readers and viewers where they are.