If the goal of content marketing and brand journalism is to merge entertainment with journalism and earn the trust of a consumer then they have much in common with traditional journalism, who tries to keep the trust of their audience by reporting the facts. It may be challenging to determine the motives of articles anymore. As stated in the Spider video, content marketing demonstrates the who, what , where, and why of a brand or product to a consumer, hoping to fill a need and earn their business. When you think of the nature of traditional news, who also reports the who, what, when, where and why of notable events, it is easy to see how the lines can be blurred. Businesses work hard to gain the trust of their prospective consumer and keeping their trust, creating the need for respectable and engaging content.
According the Forbes article published in August, more than 6o% of business used content marketing in 2014 as a part of their marketing strategy. If you are unclear what exactly content marketing is, The Forbes quotes:
“The overarching practice of using information and entertainment to promote a brand or product”. – Contently”
In an era where fresh content is needed and an audience will check to see when an article or content was published, businesses are employing marketing professionals to create new and effective content more than ever before. The Forbes article stated that this year, successful marketers have written 78% more content than they did in the previous year. There has also been an increase in Business-to-Business Marketing use of Social Media platforms. Some of the top social media sites mentioned in the survey were LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google plus. Social Media has been a game changer when it comes to how consumers, and now also other businesses, receive their information.
When it comes to finding reliable information, it is hard to imagine looking in other places besides reputable journals, newspapers, or broadcasts. Andy Bell points out in an article on Brand Journalism that news is tweeted, re-tweeted with added comments, and that social media brings an added dimension to what we call news and how it is distributed among groups and social circles. Businesses quickly identified that fact that they could easily target a set audience and reach individuals directly. These businesses would hire journalist to use their skills to create content that would appeal to these identifiable demographics and drawing those with journalistic skills to the brand journalism side.Andy Bell states about journalism
“That journalism should focus on investigating, and making public, information which reveals corruption and bad behavior by banks, corporations, public organizations, and powerful individuals.”
Bell continues to identify that no matter how much we would like to believe that true journalism is unbiased, they are still individuals who are influenced by brands, influenced by government, or influenced by companies who may offer benefits if the journalist chooses to write about their particular organization.
When it comes to content marketing, or what Bell refers to as “Consumer Journalism” it is a game to influence the consumer to think that your brand or product is exactly what they are looking for. Marketers make claims to influence purchasing. These claims are often promoted on social media, giving the public an opportunity to dispute if they feel the claims are false. The exposure that social media gives to consumers on behalf of brands causes marketing campaign to double check their facts, otherwise, a social media campaign can backfire on them. With the use of hash tags, anyone can turn a keyword promoted by a brand’s marketing team and turn it into a marketing nightmare. One example of this was McDonald’s Twitter campaign MCDonald’s Twitter Campaign where they tried to create an image of working side by side with farmers. The hash tag #McDstories was no longer controlled by their marketing team, but now by the public and those with disdain for the McDonald’s brand. Rather than creating a public facelift to be more wholesome, consumers were tweeting comments comparing McDonald’s food to human waste.
We have identified that brand journalism is a strong part of the marketing strategies use by businesses today. If corporations are paying writers to create content, what happens to traditional journalist. In another Forbes article, there were several reasons why traditional journalist love what they do. The first benefit of being a journalist is that you are always learning. Finding new areas of interest to report on is like going on a new adventure everyday. Journalist are also paid to read different publications like The Wall Street Journal, read articles across social media sites, and discover topics of interest to report on as their day job. Journalists also get to travel. Wherever there is a story that may be considered important by others, a journalist can go on location to gather first hand facts. While all of these perks of the job are grand, it is important to know who actually pays true journalist for their work. What keeps true journalist from crossing over to brand journalism and getting paid to create stories to influence decision makers? Quoted from Seth Godin’s blog,
“we might pay with a dollar at the newsstand, but we’re probably paying with our attention, with attention that is turned into ad sales.”
When it comes to being paid for true journalism content, it seems the amount a writer is paid is based on how good they are. Nate Thayer, a freelance journalist, claims that he was paid $125,000 per year to write 6 articles. It doesn’t seem that journalism would be a profession to enter if you plan to get rich. The average reporter at The New York Times made about $1777 per week in 2010. The salaries in less populated cities were more than half of that. Journalists who work for larger publications have more job security than those working in smaller cities. Editors tend to make more money than the journalists.
When we look at the overall goal of journalism, whether it is to report the news is to promote a brand, they both should adhere to the same guidelines. As pointed out in the White Paper- The New Rules of Content publication,
“brand journalism must stand up to the finest values of journalism”.
These values would include basing the content on facts, being to the point and sticking to the topic at hand, give something of value for the reader to review, be fresh and create new up to date content often and consistently, and to be transparent and accountable regarding where they obtained the information for their content.
Out of the many articles I read, it is clear that most of them share the same sentiment. That journalism is always going to have its place in the media. Even if the avenues for its dissemination decreases to make room for other types of communication efforts, people will always want to have a trusted source for information to fact check against. The goal of any journalist should be to maintain reporting the facts at all cost, and if they fall short of that endeavor, it will eventually catch up with them. Look at the example made with the one of the world’s most respected journalist, Brian Williams. He reported a fabrication of the truth where he stated that he was in a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq in 2003. An NBC insider stated that Brian Williams could not say the words ‘I lied”. There were several emails going back and forth between NBC News president Deborah Turness and journalist Brian Williams on how to address his public apology. It is reported that the NBC executives grew frustrated with his lack of accountability. Williams went as far as saying that maybe he had a brain tumor and that something happened to his head. It was decided to fire Brian Williams after 10 years as an anchor on the NBC Nightly News.
When we read something these days, we can no longer depend on the publisher to control what is factual and what is not. It is ultimately up to the journalist to decide what they are a witness to and report it. It may pass through the hands of an editor before reaching the audience, but there is still much room for influence by outside forces. It is up to the consumer to consider if what they are reading is intended to influence them towards a brand, towards a point a view, bias or unbiased, or simply stating facts for the reader to decide an opinion all of their own. It is easy to see why a journalist may cross over to create content to promote a brand or business, because it is a journalist’s love for words, reporting information, and creating compelling articles that keeps consumers coming back to read their content, whether it be driving dollars towards publications or towards products.