Communications and the Acceleration ...


Communicators have recognized for some time that people, otherwise known as the target audience, increasingly turn to mobile devices to access content.

How has this phenomenon impacted the PR profession?

In a word, notmuch.

As long as our coveted media targets did their part to ensure their stories were mobile-friendly, we figured our bases were covered.

I’m now rethinking this notion after absorbing this year’s Mary Meeker deck that covers the state of the internet with the attention to detail of a scientist discerning the perfect temperature to toast bread.

Check out the slide from this year’s presentation on media compared to the same information on media captured in 2011.

bar chart of media consumption

Sure, we already knew that the trumpets played taps for print.

But all media — with the exception of mobile — are in a declining state. Even internet consumption is finding fewer takers and less ad revenue these days. This is a zero-sum game with the clear winner being mobile.

Now comes the punch line —

The velocity of change is mind-boggling to the point of being perceived as an optical illusion. In five short years, mobile rose from 1 percent of the ad spend to 21 percent of the ad spend. Plus the percent of media time spent on mobile has jumped from 10 percent to 28 percent over the same period. And this trend is only going to become more pronounced in the coming years.

For communicators, this should be a wake-up call complete with smelling salts and a marine sergeant on the flat screen shouting “Get it!” It’s time to shift efforts into mobile content.

We can expect publications to pour more and more resources into their mobile products. We also know they’ll continue to kill their print publications, but it’s likely that the online products will suffer too as all budgets lead to mobile.

From a media relations perspective, this means packaging mobile-first pitches, content that aligns with how publications construct their stories specifically for mobile devices. A drill down into Quartz, a mobile-only publication, offers some clues on what a mobile-first pitch might look like.

Check out the headlines from a recent click on the 10 most popular stories on Quartz:

“Personal kanban”: a life-changing time-management system that explodes the myth of multitasking

Movie studios are blaming Rotten Tomatoes for killing movies no one wants to see

Elon Musk says he has “no choice” but to quit Trump’s advisory boards if the US leaves the Paris climate agreement

There’s a dark side to meditation that no one talks about

Every successful relationship is successful for the same exact reasons

Ireland is about to elect a 38-year-old gay Asian doctor as its next prime minister

Economists say the ultra-wealthy are dodging taxes far more than we think

Ethiopia shut down the country’s internet to beat exam cheats

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

Single workers aren’t there to pick up the slack for their married bosses and colleagues

Given the shrinking attention spans of those on mobile devices, Quartz sculpts headlines to surprise, shock, titillate, enlighten and mystify, ideally ticking more than one box. There’s a certain clickbaitish — if it isn’t an adjective, it should be — quality to the headlines. Each one is designed to trigger an emotional reaction.

Pitching with this type of headline in mind isn’t the PR norm unless you’re the publicist for Kim Kardashian.

Also, check out the visual composition. The typical Quartz story starts with a hero image, often photography, and carries two to three images to break up the text. Again, PR traditionally relegates the visual storytelling to a supporting role when mobile puts a premium on the visual dimension, sometimes in the form of cheap visuals like screen snapshots of tweets (which Quartz does frequently).

These same tenets hold true for those developing content for owned media and paid media earmarked for mobile. Jar the senses. Emphasize the visual side. Develop stories that go down easy.

I’m going to continue studying this one and experimenting along the way.

I’ll report back any breakthroughs from the lab.

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