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17 November 2015

How The Internet Changed Everything – Communications, Campaigns And Social Media In The 21st Century

Written by: Ed Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Vice Chairman Europe at Edelman

Culture, Media

In many respects the world was much simpler when I studied at Goldsmiths, twenty five years ago – particularly when it comes to people’s media habits.

The number of UK adults reading at least one national daily newspaper on an average day in 1992 was 26.7m, making up almost 60% of the population.

The BBC’s main evening news bulletin was watched by about 7 million people a night, with over 30% market share.

Strategic communications was very much in its infancy in this country. The boardroom was instead dominated by advertising “gurus” like Maurice and Charles Saatchi.

Public attitudes were shaped by a much smaller set of actors and by fewer more dominant traditional sources of information.

In technology terms, life was much closer to the Mad Men era, when if you weren’t in the office, or in your club, you were out of contact. If you needed to be contacted quickly the pager was the ‘must have gadget’. Though to return the call, you’d need a plastic bag of 10p coins and a payphone.

But a month before I turned up at Fresher’s week, in August 1991, an innovation as important as the invention of Gutenberg printing press in the mid-15th century or the combustion engine in the mid-19th, revealed itself.

I am of course talking about the launch of the public internet by Tim Berners-Lee.

See below for a full exploration of five trends, and how they have impacted the communications industry. They are:

  • The emergence of an era of mass distrust in public institutions, politics, business and media
  • The rise of the individual influencer, powered by social networks
  • How the nature of campaigns and campaigning has changed
  • The growing power of global media and elite audiences
  • And finally, how mobile is amplifying all of the above

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