Brand journalism is receiving some pushback from the newspaper reporting community, thanks to the word “journalism” in the concept name.
The reporting community is fighting to keep advertising a separate entity from journalism, which as a former reporter, makes a lot of sense to me. I remember sitting in J-school classes, studying media ethics and holding long discussions about the sanctity of our future jobs as reporters. We talked at great length about staying neutral on stories, always getting the other viewpoint included in our reporting, and not letting advertising dollars influence an article.
Now, as a content marketing writer and editor, I see how big a role newspapers and media websites play in helping companies promote their products and services. And the public relations community is using brand journalism to market a message that is read – and well received – by consumers.
So which side do I agree with? Both, and here’s why.
- Brand journalism is journalism-style writing, not hard news.
- Brand journalism articles belong in the lifestyle section of the newspaper and on media websites, not the front page. Companies should realistically expect their brand journalism articles to appear in the health, cooking, home improvement, wedding and holiday tabs. This print and website content space is traditionally used to provide readership with helpful information about the topic of the tab, and also earn additional advertising dollars to help fund the publication.
- Brand journalism articles give readers helpful information with subtly placed brand mentions, but are not press releases that only advertise a company or product. Press releases to reporters contain a “who”, “what”, “why”, and “how”, and can be rewritten as a short sidebar in the “what’s happening” or “business news” sections of the paper.
- Brand journalism articles fill a void by providing quality content for those sections of newspapers and media websites that downsized, and do not have the resources to handle all the work any longer.
As the former reporter, I fully support the effort to keep hard news reporting a separate entity from advertising, but when it comes to the non-reporting aspects of journalism like the lifestyle pages, the lines can be blurred. These are the sections where readers are looking for home improvement or landscaping tips, advice for planning a wedding or even reminders on what refunds are available this year for those preparing their taxes.
Because these sections of the newspaper (and online media publications) are designed specifically as everyday living information for readers, they’re the perfect place for content marketing and companies that cater to these topics. And readers are open to brands being mentioned in these articles, because they’re written journalistically, not as advertising.