And journalism is the new marketing.
For better or worse, we are moving rapidly into a state of brand-produced journalism. It’s happening on two fronts: Sponsored Content and Brand Publishing
There’s no doubt traditional media companies are dropping like flies. Circulations and subscriptions have flat-lined – print advertising revenue is moving to digital advertising and into the coffers of Google, Facebook and other technology companies. For the first time, journalism jobs have sunk below 40,000 in the United States.
In other words, the industry is desperate. As Pew Research noted in its State of the New Media 2013 report:
“Newsmakers and others with information they want to put into the public arena have become more adept at using digital technology and social media to do so on their own, without any filter by the traditional media. They are also seeing more success in getting their message into the traditional media narrative.”
This is one reason why news organizations are moving fast to Sponsored Content. Sponsored Content used to come in basically one format – the advertorial. A piece of content designed to look like a news story, but written by marketers and clearly labelled for all to see with the that dreaded “Advertorial” moniker. It might as well have said “Do Not Read.”
That’s no longer the case. Now this “advertorial content” is being written and produced by journalists. For example, Fortune recently announced plans where its journalists will actually write news article on behalf of advertisers. Fortune gives the new product offering the rather Orwellian name of “Trusted Original Content.”
Traditional media is also moving quickly to provide Native Advertising for brands. Native Advertising comes in many formats, but basically the brand creates the content – usually centered on news, trends or thought leadership – and pays to have them featured by traditional media outlets. Often the native advertising is difficult to distinguish from the articles and news being produced by the media outlet’s journalists.
The most infamous example of Native Advertising gone wrong was at The Altantic, when the august publication published a glowing story (i.e. Native Advertising) about the Church of Scientology (which many people consider a dangerous cult). As PaidContent noted in its coverage of the story, many entertainment and humor news sites use Native Advertising all the time – but the mix with journalism and hard news seemed to cross the line for many critics of the practice.
But that line has been broken – and will continue to be broken – because Native Advertising is a way for struggling news organizations to make money.
But an even larger trend may be the rise of Brand Journalism (aka Brand Publishing). Why bother paying for Sponsored Content when brands can hire their own journalists to write articles for them?
Last week, two prominent journalists, Dan Lyons of ReadWrite and Ben Worthen of the Wall Street Journal, left their journalism posts to work for brands – one at a software company and the other at a venture capital firm. They were hired to be to content marketers. They join a growing collection of journalists from the New York Times, Huffington Post and Newsweek that are joining companies to produce content – paid content for marketing purposes.
As Mashable noted:
“Call it what you want — content marketing, native advertising, brand publishing – but the idea that advertisers can create editorial content has gained an amazing amount of momentum over the past two years… Brands and others are cranking out full-on editorial publications.”
One organization, Contently, is centered on providing journalists and writers with a platform to work with brands and non-profits to create content.
Brands are starting news rooms. Brands are building out publishing platforms. After all who knows more about food than food companies? Who know more about their technology than technology companies?
Weber Shandwick (the company where I work) yesterday announced Mediaco, a new brand publishing unit. Mediaco is all about helping brands excel at content marketing – of turning traditional PR, communications and marketing efforts into brand publishing engines.
Brands as journalists. Journalists as brands.
What do you think of Brand Publishing and the direction of both marketing and journalism?
Can Content Marketing Save Journalism via Mashable
Fortune will Created “Trusted” Content for Brands via MediaBistro
The Atlantic and Native Advertising via PaidContent