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News Versus Brand Journalism

News Versus Brand Journalism

When writing an article on the history of weightlifting for a previous employer, I conducted my research, jotted down the need-to-know facts, dotted the i's, crossed the t's, and sent the piece to my editor to be fine-tuned.

When I saw the final published article, the statistics I had cited were scrapped in favour of brand equivalents. The record weight had been converted into car wheels by the marketing department, who had the final say over all published articles.


The change wasn't made to aid the readers in understanding or visualising such a weight, but to appease a company who were paying millions of pounds in sponsorship. It was at this moment that I realised marketing and journalism were meshing together, and that I was becoming a brand journalist, whether I liked it or not.

The Death of Journalism?

Even the most hardcore print journalist would admit that the world of journalism is changing. If you are studying journalism or working as a writer in some capacity, the chances are you've been told that "journalism is dying".

Whether it be the lecturer who gets paid to teach you about journalism preaching about it's demise, or a smarmy tech guru that has more Apple products in one pocket that you have in your entire house combined, people can't wait to tell you about the state of disrepair that journalism finds itself in.

With dwindling sales, the news media workforce falling by 30% in ten years and a public backlash against disgraced journalists, it could be argued that these "disciples of joy" preaching the demise of something that was once described as "the first draft of history" could be right. But, they're not.

As the traditional form of journalism reaches for the white flag of surrender, are journalists turning to marketing and a new concept known as "brand journalism" to survive?

Moulded by Tech Giants

As companies went online and content marketing was born, search engines such as Google decided that compelling, accurate articles should rank higher than keyword searches and attached links. Marketing companies with journalists who could write rich and informative pieces were therefore rewarded by having their content, and in turn their company, pushed up the search rankings.

This led to a surge in the number of marketing companies and big brand firms seeking writers to push out their content, write optimum length quality pieces and improve their overall content marketing. This has effectively led to a crossover of journalists merging into the world of marketing. Upcoming startups pounce on journalist graduates to train them in writing brand journalism, enhance their content marketing and grow their digital footprint.

Have We Always Been Marketers?

For years journalists have been using products to aid readers in understanding facts and figures. For example, Loch Ness was often described as being as deep as 700 double decker buses. Another common analogy which is frequently seen in the mainstream press, is describing something vast as "an area the size of Wales".

By making a reference to Wales, journalists aren't pushing tourism to the country; by talking about buses they're not promoting First or other bus companies (even I'm not by using them as an example here). Journalists are simply providing an analogy for readers to understand. So why is it that some articles are considered journalism when making references to products whilst other articles are considered to be marketing?

The difference is that brand journalists don't forget their company. Whilst a journalist sticks to news principles, a brand journalist thinks about the company vision, identifying their stories and their audience. Brand journalism combines increasing awareness of a product through articles and quality content, with an overall emphasis on increasing sales for their company. A brand journalist must decide if a piece is newsworthy based on the relevance to their company and their brand, whilst journalists have a duty to report regardless of who signs their paychecks.

To put it simply, journalists write the news. Brand journalists choose the news.

Next week we will look into how journalism is evolving and bouncing back to combat the decline in printed press.

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