Brand Journalism or Content Marketing?Brand journalism has become the subject of some debate among journalists and public relations specialists. Some claim the name reflects a chance in marketing philosophy, with companies reaching out to potential customers through timely, well-written content.
Others argue the term is misleading and inaccurate. Advertising content, they argue, cannot be considered journalism. Journalism reports facts and events objectively and without bias, while content marketing tries to influence consumers into making a purchase.
Journalists and Content Marketing
Many companies are bringing former journalists onto their media teams and with good reason. A seasoned journalist can spot potential news stories quickly, shape a nebulous idea into a well-crafted story and do so within a tight deadline. These skills are invaluable in the world of content marketing.
Clear Distinction or Hazy Line?
While some people see a clear line between journalism and content marketing, others think the line is somewhat hazy. I’m a cynic and as such see precious little true journalism coming out of the modern newsroom.
Instead, news stories often have a distinct political agenda or are chosen because the story will increase ratings or sales. Such news stories share much in common with content marketing. Whether the story pushes a political agenda or suggests buying new technology for medical transcription companies, the intent is the same: to influence people into making a decision.
Neither of these examples represents true journalism. The difference is, you expect a company’s content will push a product or service. You also expect, in a perfect world, for a news story to present the facts with an objective eye.
Unfortunately, we rarely see true journalism nowadays. Still, people such as ZDNet’s Tom Foremski argue the term has a definite meaning, and should not be appropriated by content marketing.
Fair and Unbiased
Foremski’s argument is simple. You cannot expect a company to write unbiased content. A shoe company isn’t going to write a rave review of their competitor’s new product. A company publishing an investigative piece into labor issues in China probably isn’t going to mention its own foreign factories. Labeling such pieces as journalism, Foremski argues, is deceptive and misleading.
Personally, I prefer the term content marketing. Content marketing articles can be informative, useful and of high quality—all earmarks of any good content, whether journalism or not. At the same time, content marketing doesn’t try to hide behind a veneer of journalism.
Companies using content marketing are being transparent and honest with their consumers. They’re saying hey—this information is helpful, and by the way, we’ve no objection if reading this convinces you to become a customer.
Brand journalism does the same thing, of course, but it hides its true nature. Whether or not the sheen of artificial journalism increases consumer conversions isn’t clear. But frankly, it’s a less honest approach to content marketing.
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