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Television Still Dominates Digital – and the Implications for PR

(Photo credit: CSA Images/Getty Images)

(Photo credit: CSA Images/Getty Images)

Much has been made of the rise of digital television, and how more formats are ushering in a sea change in the ways people consume media.  The data, to this point, tell another story.

Consider this data, from a recent Nielsen study:

  • 283 million Americans watch TV each month, and 155 million consume video content online.  The latter number shows significant growth…
  • But despite those numbers, TV viewers watch an average of 146 hours a month and video viewers watch just shy of six hours a month.
  • Consequently, the TV market is still about 20x larger.  The TV industry today is estimated at around $74 billion, while video/digital is about $3.5 billion.

Besides simply being interesting, the takeaway here is simple: the medium of television still has considerable power in today’s society.  It’s television news people are watching, and television shows people mostly enjoy.  And of course, all that means one central truth – it’s TV advertising that large numbers of people are still exposed to.

This is mostly applicable for our friends in the advertising industry, who are concerned every day about buying the ad space most relevant to their clients and their target consumers.  But there are some implications for PR as well:

  • We shouldn’t forget about television media when we’re pitching stories.  Even if other formats are increasing in popularity, and impression numbers through TV are maybe declining, TV isn’t going away anytime soon.  It remains the dominant way of telling stories visually, and a primary means of communication in times of crisis.  It should be an essential component of any comprehensive external relations campaign.
  • Skill sets required for television are still valuable.  Do you know how to edit video?  Are you media trained; can you rattle off a good, key-message-heavy sound bite in 10-15 seconds, or coach your clients/executives to do it?  Can you project empathy and emotion to a mass audience through a camera?  Not only is it still good to know how to maximize television opportunities, but convergence of media is still a major factor in the industry today.  For example, more and more print outlets are offering multimedia capabilities such as video content, social media engagement, etc.  As a result, the more we can do to make the journalist’s job easier by giving them professional content that they’re likely to use, the better our chances of success.
  • Television made things viral before digital did.  We talk all the time about the hot new YouTube clip, or the latest Grumpy Cat image.  But just think of all the examples of how TV used to – and still does – turn ordinary things into viral pop culture topics.  Just about anything ESPN does would qualify, maybe most notably the poker boom of 2003 and beyond.  Heck, even the Space Race of the 1960s became a national obsession, largely because Walter Cronkite and CBS helped make it so.  In other words – when we think of making something viral, we usually think of how to make it popular in new and emerging media.  Maybe we should still think of the tried and true media like television.  Good stories, with good visuals and human elements, will always have a place on TV.

What do you think?  Do you see more parallels and lessons for PR pros around this?  Leave a comment…I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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