We are living in the Golden Age of news and information because consumers have more news choices than ever. These sources that deliver instant messages range from credible to unreliable, balanced to biased and newsworthy to inane. It’s messy and yet still better than the good ole days when we watched anchorman Walter Cronkite dominate TV news against two other networks. In those times every town supported at least one daily newspaper and we accepted that because it’s all we knew.
Back then, media groups had a license to print money and faced minimal competition. In the 1980’s Ted Turner built 24 hour cable news and Gannett created USA Today with a mission to publish articles with colorful pictures and graphics.
This ignited the digital media revolution that has exploded with satellite TV, the internet, mobile and social media offering a stream of unlimited data. Admittedly a lot of it is garbage; at least you can decide what you consume.
A new survey by my alma mater, Indiana University (reported in this article by Romenesko) says journalists believe that we’re headed in the wrong direction. Several news managers posted on social media that they aren’t too surprised by this because journalists are typically cynical. Despite their nonchalance they admit that they are facing daunting challenges. Recently Slate reported that newspapers hit a milestone-Ad revenues are the lowest since 1950.
In my opinion this evolution is natural and is creating unprecedented opportunities. New versions of journalism, communications and marketing are forming, especially with branded content. The definition of brand journalism is evolving. Consider this definition by marketing, communications, technology expert Ben Stroup, who says it’s an effective way to distinguish yourself and quiet the noise by telling your story with a journalistic approach. Firehead says there are three types:
1. Sites that are produced in-house or by an agency
2. Messages that target a persona
3. Content producers that create and report the news
To me, brand journalism is individuals, media and organizations telling their story by branding themselves and the content they are producing. This material needs to be real and engaging because today’s savvy audience can sniff out marketing posers. The Poynter Institute published this article by Joe Grimm on journalists strengthening their own brands and Mark Glasser, writing for PBS Media Shift added his thoughts about this trend. Today’s customized Twitter feeds are branded journalism and essentially yesterday’s news wires.
I am involved in a branded journalism project with the Mayo Clinic News Network as cited by Lindsey Kerr from The BuzzBin who profiled this trend in health care. This opportunity reaches beyond health-related communication and is a powerful tool for any individual or organization. The key is to deliver accurate and credible content.
While attending Mayo Clinic Social Media Week in conjunction with Ragan Communications in the fall of 2014, branded journalism speaker Lisa Arledge Powell stressed that marketers need to tell not sell their stories. She’s right and that’s why journalists will prosper in this evolution, they’ll just look a little different.
Below are two articles that add more perspective to this conversation, including a feature on Coca-Cola, considered to be a leader in this area.
The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich.