The rise of the fifth screen
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
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The rise of the fifth screen

Arun Sudhaman

                  In a fascinating presentation at today's PR and Disruption conference in London, Nic Newman from the Reuters Institute of Journalism explored how dramatic changes in the media business are impacting corporate and brand communication. Newman's talk provided a thorough overview of the forces at play, including 'platform-neutral storytelling; the importance of visual storytelling; the 'realtime stream'; the impact of new technology; and, unsurprisingly, the need to build trust and community. This will (or at least should) strike a chord with PR people, as explored in our recent in-depth feature on the importance of content. What particularly interested me, though, were Newman's comments about the rise of the 'fifth screen' - wearable technology such as Google Glass, Nike's Fuelband, the Pebble smartwatch and even smart tattoos. These have specific engagement potential in areas such as health and fitness, navigation, social networking and ecommerce, leading Newman to note that companies need to gear up to use the information available - specifically, a consumer's location and context - to their advantage. To do that, though, Newman noted that organizations need to become more joined up, pointing out that "the real blocker is internal". One simple remedy, he suggested, is simply knocking down physical barriers within an office and ensuring that content people sit with, for example, designers and developers. Another is to reorganize around audiences rather than the traditional channel-specific approach. All sensible stuff, given added clarity when Newman pointed to some of the experimental multimedia coverage that has been carried out recently by big media companies - notably New York Times' Snowfall and the Guardian's Firestorm.  These were undeniably powerful examples of the future of online journalism, yet they were also extremely expensive and labour-intensive. As Newman pointed out, much of this type of content can be produced by organizations rather more affordably; the harder part is ensuring that their culture and thinking keeps pace with new digital technologies.
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