Blog | Jan 18, 2013 | 3 Comments

The Blurry Line Between Content Marketing and Journalism

In case you haven’t heard, content marketing is today’s hottest trend in marketing, sales, social media, and who knows what else. Apparently, the field is attracting a number of journalists. But do they still get to call themselves journalists?

Let’s define “content marketing.”

Every blogger, marketer, and social media consultant alive today contributes to the hype about content marketing. I even changed my business tagline to “exceptional content” in order not to be left behind. But I’m still trying to understand what this phenomenon really is. Naturally, I turned to wikipedia:

Content Marketing’s basic premise is to “provide some valuable information or entertainment – ‘content’ – that stops short of a direct sales pitch or call to action, but which seeks to positively influence a customer in some way.” This information can be presented in a variety of media, including text, video, Q&A’s, photos, etc.

Any time a product is shown or described without an explicit “buy” message, that is content marketing. I suppose you could say it’s just about anything but advertising or other forms of direct marketing. And the web is full of it – everywhere you look. It didn’t used to be that way. Years ago, it was a lot harder to publish and distribute content. We did content marketing by writing long white papers, developing presentations for industry conferences, and paying PR agencies get us into magazines and newspapers.

What does this have to do with journalism?

My friend, Anne Janzer, posted a link on Twitter to a very intriguing article entitled, “3 Critical Content Marketing Trends that Signal Big Industry Changes Ahead.” This article outlines some trends in content marketing and discusses how the lines are being blurred between PR and advertising. This statement by the blog author really caught my eye:

Today, writers, editors, and journalists are available to help you produce great content in literally every industry. Moreover, the majority of journalism jobs available today are on the brand side, not in traditional media, and thus the stigma of working for non-media brands is not nearly as strong as it was just a few years ago.

I have to say I was stumped. If someone is a “journalist,” they work for a media outlet. If someone works for a brand, they are a copywriter or marketer (like me).  I get paid to produce content all day long, from tweets to white papers (yes, still). But I would never call myself a journalist.

What happened to journalistic impartiality?

When I talked to Anne, she suggested (not jokingly) that perhaps the industry needs to find jobs for all of those journalists displaced in the collapse of traditional media outlets. Like me, though, she finds the idea of “brand journalism” strange. You see, we still have this outdated notion that journalism implies impartiality.

By the way, Anne writes a very good blog about content marketing and how to do it in a way that provides truly valuable information. Read and subscribe – you won’t be sorry.

Bonus article: In The Foxification of News, the Economist argues that journalistic impartiality is a relatively new phenomenon, anyway, and is rapidly fading away. “If impartiality is already the exception rather than the rule, the internet is now eroding it further.” Good read.

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

3 Comments

Good post, Claire. Thanks for the reference, and the ongoing discussion. I hadn’t seen the Economist article, either, and was intrigued by the thought that “transparency is the new objectivity.” These are different times, indeed.

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

@Anne Janzer, here is yet another cultural shift we need to adjust to. For a short time in history, we thought we had a Fourth Estate that was separate and untouchable. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I cling to that ideal. *sigh*

[Reply]

Anne Janzer

1/18/2013

There’s a lot more difference between news journalism and brand copywriting than what’s discussed here. Journalists generally have to have a verified source for the info they publish and their copy has to be approved by an editor who is always concerned about the brand they write for, which is the paper itself.

Now, when it comes to entertainment journalism, the lines truly are a lot more blurry between them and a lot of blog writers.

So, not thinking it’s fair to lump all flavors of journalism into one category.

[Reply]

MaAnna

1/20/2013

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