by helen on January 14, 2011

Everyone loves a good gossip – whether it’s about politics, the weather, the latest fashions, interest rates, a new restaurant, celebrity break ups or the footy results. People love to share information and have always found a way to indulge their obsession.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say the exchange of news is one of the oldest human activities.

It’s what brings people together – years ago at crossroads, markets, or campfires, then in pubs and clubs, and increasingly nowadays, in digital communities created by organisations hoping to benefit from the creation of virtual meeting places.

The way we share information has without doubt evolved – from word-of-mouth, to messengers, to newspapers, to the telephone, radio, TV, and now the Internet, email, mobile phones and social media.

But has the content changed? I don’t think it has. We just have access to more information than our ancestors could ever dream about.

IMO, the Who, What, Why, When, Where and How of news hasn’t changed. These are the questions we want answering. The criteria which determine a good news story were then, are now, and probably always will be, the same.

Which leads me into the on-going debate about the death of the news release, and the impact of social media on the industry responsible for its generation, distribution and evaluation.

The news release has traditionally been used by PR to help organisations share relevant content with people who are interested via the media.

As a method for sharing content it has evolved. When I first started my PR career, we wrote 2-page press releases, printed them onto branded paper and posted them to journalists. Then we started to fax them, then we started to email them – which inevitably had an impact on their content and form. Then organisations started to publish their own content on websites, and the release as a vehicle for the delivery of content became less important.

Now, organisations distribute all sorts of content – photos, videos, words – to audiences including journalists, but they are less reliant on “the media” for publication and dissemination. Direct communication with customers is becoming easier, and other influencers eg bloggers have become as powerful as journalists.

More significantly, the public are again relying more and more on word-of-mouth, sometimes shared digitally, to inform their buying decisions.

So here’s a thought: are our virtual communities, created using social media, the 21st century version of the campfires and crossroads where our ancestors first caught the news-sharing bug?

Our innate desire to exchange news/content/information/opinions – to be social – is thriving thanks to the inventions of the digital age.

So is social media making us more social? (Thanks to Quest PR for this insight into how using social networking sites actually strengthens personal and business ties rather than, as some people suspect, making us more aloof. You know who you are ;-)).

I think it is.

Do you agree? Do you think social media is making us more social? Or do you think our obsession with tweeting and posting status updates, on sharing information about our lives, is stifling our ability to live them?

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