Online Magazine/Web Copy
15. May 2019
How Content Marketing Is the New Journalism
The rapidly evolving landscape of communication is changing the value of the written word. As such, everyone should consider the social impact, financial ramifications, and ethical principles of journalism as we apply it to businesses for our marketing strategies if we are to maintain integrity and credibility. People are now considering just how much the writing world has changed and are asking themselves whether, as it continues to evolve its methods and modes, content marketing is the new journalism.
“Newsgathering isn’t dying; instead, it’s becoming stratified, with real implications for our knowledge of the world,” writes reporter, historian, and professor at Boston University, Christopher B. Daly.
Knowledge is power and in this new era of intelligence democratisation, the weight of power is no longer held by the few. The global corporations who used to hold the information reins firmly in their grasp have lost their grip. And now, through the use of the Internet with its ‘global’ capacity to provide any and all information and entertainment at ever-increasing speeds, it resides with the masses. The new darling, social media, now dictates and ‘influences’ popular thought, culture, and opinion in ways that were previously determined in the ivory towers of the rich, the socially connected, and in the intellectual halls of the old school, old media.
The current trend of social media influencers dictating public opinion looks set to increase since everyone with a smartphone and a wireless connection has the opportunity to share their opinions through their globally-reaching voice. The tide has changed from the old style of media which gave people their opinions to accepting that everybody with a smartphone can break the news.
The constant opinion, the constant noise of a million voices clamouring for bandwidth and the urge to question long-held ideological beliefs, which used to be birthed in the locus of Oxbridge or other exclusive social strata, can now be formed and resolved anywhere.
The capacity to broadcast, berate, unravel, and rewrite the status-quo in 140 characters is something that policymakers have learned to fear and the assiduous use of a politically charged hashtag can make campaign rallies or break careers.
However, as unbiased as we wanted to believe our media were, in the past there had been the problem of the global perpetuation of misinformation as gut-grabbing, click-baiting, mistaken or just plain lies in headlines, circumnavigating the globe faster than individual humanity ever will.
Everyone Loves a Story
The big hitters such as HSBC, Red Bull, American Express, and Microsoft all understand the value in credible, narrative content.
Held to the high standards of journalism, content marketing is the process of documenting facts and telling stories to create credible awareness around any given brand. It has acknowledged and taken great strides in accepting that the modern locus of ‘info-tainment’ is more than just a passive recipient and malleable consumer. The level of complexity and sophistication of the contemporary customer is higher now than ever and continues to rise as a result of the access to knowledge at the touch of a fingertip, coupled with new confidence in our individual capacity to make up our own minds.
Brands are creating environments where they can cultivate desirable stories and future conversations. Far from communicating via the now out-dated modalities, brands are working on developing the role of trusted purveyor of credible information. Gone are the days of less than shining credibility, spurious leads, dubious authenticity, and sometimes downright lies to the individuals for whom brands have no respect and only see as walking capital. There is still a fear of ‘native advertising’: articles which are, at heart, nothing more than advertisements for a brand or product; however, with the increase in transparency, there is a wider acceptance of a content marketers’ ability to hold these polarities.
Marketers are no longer pitching for the sale; rather, they are collaboratively working together with their customers to solve a problem or fulfil a need. With that, it can be said that the shift to a win-win mentality is on the rise, benefitting both the businesses and the consumers--and the message is carried through the content.
“Journalists like to think of themselves as protectors of public interest: Intermediaries who police both fact and rhetoric” (CJR senior writer, Michael Meyer)
Though it may be true, Meyer’s concept can be argued to have become a bit over-romanticized and skewed into unfortunate paternalism. Clicks can be viewed as an indicator of the modern consumer's comfort and confidence in their ability to police and navigate their own information landscape.
Finally, it appears to be understood that biased content erodes trust, loyalty, and ultimately the longevity of the brand. It is, therefore, a ‘no-brainer' that honesty and respect need to be part of this dialogue, giving true versions and not just lip service. Individuals are far too savvy to fall for old school, disingenuous marketing speak.
Content marketing is here to stay and changing the rhetoric on its role, ability, and necessity will allow it to develop a stronger set of core values and a system of working which will benefit all. Moving forward is about acknowledging the pitfalls in the often considered ‘unholy’ and ‘sold out’ alliance between business and news/information providers. This goes beyond the polarisation of business/product/brand driven writing vs ethical/investigative reporting to create a new type of information dissemination which holds positive values at its core and recognizes the need for financial support and alignment without bending the knee to it.
The Hippocratic oath resides with medicine, but ethical concepts relate to all spheres of our lives and content creation and marketing is no exception. In order for it to move forward positively, with purpose and integrity, those concepts need to be acknowledged and supported.
So rather than futile, misty-eyed discussions on the past, let’s forge new methods which encompass these rights and responsibilities, making Content Marketing a progressive, positive, ethical, informative, and conscious industry that is of benefit to all and which takes up the best of the old ways and transforms itself and all it touches as it goes.
As Australian business journalist and author, Kath Walters, writes: “Content marketing, at its best, is the new journalism. It’s not the future; it’s the present, and it gives all of us unprecedented opportunity to don the publishing mantle, with all its rights and responsibilities.”