The Future of Brand Journalism

TheFuture

The Wall Street Journal dedicated an entire section recently to a fascinating premise: “The Future of Everything.” The special report covered diverse industries and personalities (leading thinkers, innovators and artists shared their visions of where the world is heading). Oh, what a world awaits!

For Instance:

  • Tony Fadell, founder of Nest Labs, predicted smart appliances and greater connectivity will mean “our relationship with the home will change. The comforts of home will no longer be tied to specific physical structures, giving way to nomadic living.” (I agree.)
  • Model Tyra Banks made the bold assertion that since “beauty will be easily attainable, models will be as relevant as a horse and buggy.” (I disagree. Ideals of beauty may change but the desire for — and sale of — beauty is timeless.)
  • My favorite predictions were from chef Alice Waters — “small mom-and-pop restaurants will enjoy a resurgence” — and sections on cities and transportation.

What About Brand Journalism?

Strangely, the future of news and journalism wasn’t covered in this future fest. This seems like a calculated oversight for a major newspaper. Wonder why?

Perhaps closest to an answer was from Angela Benton, founder and CEO of NewMe Accelerator, a platform for minority entrepreneurs. I agreed with and was excited by Ms. Benton’s assertion that there will be more entrepreneurs in coming years.

The sidebar to Ms. Benton’s contribution featured a survey of small business owners. The biggest issue facing their business was “marketing,” answered 35% of them, the largest response in the sample. Today, marketing and brand journalism are increasingly tied through use of content marketing. Tomorrow?

My Predictions

I have a few predictions. First, I can say with 100% confidence, (barring another global ice age): the future of brand journalism will include words. Communication, and its close cousin, the art of persuasion, will never go out of style. How tomorrow’s words are delivered is debatable. Drones?

In all seriousness, I do have some predictions:

  1. Subscribing to individual journalists, not papers or media outlets, will be the new normal. I don’t mean subscribing in the sense of following them on Twitter — I mean in the sense of fiscal support. A site like Beacon Reader offers readers a chance to directly support journalistic investigation by monthly subscription. Like crowdsourcing, this “Kickstarter journalism” model will direct dollars from the masses to the investigation of stories others are unwilling (or unable) to cover. Brand journalists serve different masters (corporate brands) but they too may receive crowd-driven, fiscal support for investigations related to a brand’s products or services by consumers themselves, e.g., “Is Product X really produced in sweatshop free facility?”
  2. Bloggers will continue to build their individual brands while working for other brands, and criss-cross the divide freely. Bloggers are largely misunderstood today because the word “blogger” is applied to almost any kind of Web writer. Wrong! Business blogging is different than entertainment writing or copywriting, for example. You can’t just read a list of website startup tips, make up a quick site – and start writing salescopy. The future holds more custom content but also more opportunities for writers. There will be less stigma attached to writers working in different capacities (for a brand or for “impartial” news) at different times.
  3. New words will develop to describe roles. Blogger” is a word — and a description, and an occupation — that didn’t exist just a few years ago. I predict new words will develop to more clearly delineate writing roles, whether used for corporate ends or traditional reporting. Until then we’ll have to make do with one that doesn’t quite fit.

Image by k rupp.

About Katie McCaskey

Katie McCaskey is SixEstate's content director. She tests real-world application of content marketing techniques using the cafe she co-owns as a laboratory. She was Tech Editor of Chief Content Officer, 2010-2011, and contributes to the Content Marketing Institute. Connect with her on Google+ or @KatieMcCaskey.

  

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