Traditional Media Measurement Will Exit by 2018, and 6 More Predictions

Editor’s Note: As the year ends, PR News Pro again is asking prominent PR and communications figures to play prognosticator. We began in the Oct. 31 edition with predictions from five communicators. Below we hear about what’s ahead for measurement and analytics in 2017 from popular PR News Pro columnist Katie Paine.]

1. PR News Pro may have to change its name.

The term PR may be obsolete by the end of 2017. The concept of PR meaning ”building relationships with one’s publics” remains valid. But the common vernacular meaning of PR as being mostly about media relations is rapidly going the way of the landline and the floppy disk. Look at titles today. My database used to be filled with titles like “PR manager.” Now it includes one or more of the following words in an astonishing variety of combinations: social, digital, content marketing, PESO, public relations, public affairs, communications, advertising, marketing, development, events, etc.

A PR person’s daily assignment might include anything from creating content to reaching out to influencers, booking a speech, organizing an event, crafting an employee email or arranging a meeting with a local government official. (Which means that traditional media measurement is equally obsolete, but more on that later.)

All of which can be

Paine Publishing, CEO, Katie Paine
Katie Paine, CEO, Paine Publishing

considered building relationships with one’s public. It’s unclear where that lives in an organization, though.

Old-fashioned silos are collapsing and budgets are being allocated according to a new set of buckets, which has been migrating to a PESO (Paid vs Earned vs Shared vs Owned) model.

I would argue that you will be dropping the S and O and just calling it Paid vs Earned. As the Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards ( concluded a few years ago, one “earns” shares by creating great content, so the acronym really should be POE.

But that still leaves the dangling adjective “owned.” Owned made sense when organizations did a little social on the side when they weren’t busy with other things. Somehow it seemed free. With social media budgets expected to rise 21% in the next five years, it’s clear that we are pretty much paying for everything social these days, whether in labor or in sponsorship, ads or some other form.

So, tell me again why we need four words to describe what people are doing in marketing? In 2017 we won’t.

2. Media measurement as we knew it is over.

In 2017 we will be sticking a fork into the old days of measuring communications via placements, column inches, impressions and, God forbid, AVEs. New tools like Glean.Info and Proof and the incorporation of digital metrics in traditional media measurement systems have made obsolete the old, single-channel metrics. Today you can easily evaluate all your outreach—be it on the New York Times, Instagram, NPR or Twitter. More important, these new tools make it easy to see the influence of your media activities on conversions at your web site, activity in your CRM system or anything else you consider touches your business.

3. Impressions are no longer impressive.

If nothing else, this past year’s Olympics and NFL season have demonstrated that traditional ways of evaluating reach are failing. TV ratings for the Olympics and the NFL, so far, are down dramatically, mostly because people are consuming sports content in so many other ways.

Many of my friends got their Olympic news via their favorite athlete’s stories on Snap’s Snapchat—one of the few as yet unmeasurable mediums.

Facebook Live, YouTube and a gazillion other ways to watch have been streaming onto cell phones for years. As bigger mobile phones become ubiquitous, this streaming trend will accelerate.

Advertisers and networks understand this and are valuing digital engagement as highly as they once valued ratings. Sadly, PR folks still obsess about impressions, so their vendors supply them with ever sillier, more inflated impressions counts that no one with any knowledge of business believes.

2017 will change all that. Senior leadership is fed up with inflated vanity metrics. Increasingly leaders will focus on bespoke engagement scores that are closely correlated with revenue, sales, leads and other business results.

4. Highly credible media brands and key influencers will return to prominence.

For years, monitoring vendors have bragged about the millions and millions of outlets they can serve up to clients. In the wake of the avalanche of fake news stories and bogus media outlets that drowned out truth during the election cycle, however, readers (and presumably the PR people trying to influence them) will realize that for their messages to be credible, they need to appear in reliable outlets and/or be picked up by credible journalists.

Communicators who want to be accountable will focus their evaluation budgets on those key authors who are most likely to influence their target audiences.

5. Consolidation will continue, but with a twist.

In recent years, every prognosticator has seen, mostly accurately, the increased consolidation among social-listening and media-measurement companies. Cision was eating everything in sight. Everyone expected that to continue. But more recently IBM, Oracle and other large tech firms have become the gobblers so they can satisfy their data-analytics operations. God knows social listening and media firms have data. For mega-consulting and tech firms, acquisition is a relative bargain compared to the expense of starting from scratch and gathering data themselves.

6. Data analytics and insight will be more valuable on your resume than “good people skills” or “great writer.”

With the shrinking of newsrooms, you can pick up an assistant managing editor for not much more than the cost of an intern. The problem with hiring former journalists is that while they can write up a storm, they probably don’t know much about your business. On the other hand, a good data analyst can dive in and learn more about your customers in four weeks than you may know after 12 months on the job. Increasingly the open slots in communications departments are going to data analysts. PR graduates, are you listening?

7. Not-for-profit PR will be the place to be.

The last year, and in particular the election cycle, taught the power of activism. Millions who never took part in the political process got to experience the exhilaration of political participation. Thousands knocked on doors, came out to rallies and took to the streets for the first time. Millions unhappy with the outcome are expressing displeasure with “rage donations.” As a result, nonprofits suddenly are swimming in new donors. This unexpected windfall will, in some cases, turn into opportunities for PR pros who really have good people and writing skills and who want to make a difference, not just a paycheck.


This content appeared originally in PR News Pro, December, 12, 2016. For subscription information, please visit: