Traditional media is in decline; the new journalism is called content marketing.
Content marketing offers an exciting new business model for entertaining, informative journalism, as well as the fearless, independent journalism that underpins our democracy.
This is a challenging idea, I know, and many would argue that it is naïve. As a community, we are not used to companies publishing independent content; we are used to companies twisting their content into (inane) marketing messages.
So, the companies we trust to resist bias, more or less, are media companies.
The commercial pressure on traditional media (and digital media) is eroding their independence — and their value. Look at the catastrophic fall in share price of Fairfax Media. Five years ago, in 2008, Fairfax Media shares were worth $3.00 each. Today, they are worth 64 cents. The workforce has been decimated over the past decade; this year alone, a third of the workforce — 1800 staff — are slated to lose their jobs.
The old model of media independence was predicated on the “rivers of gold” — the enormous flow of revenue from classified job, home and car ads. That era is over, of course. Media companies — old and digital — cannot thumb their noses to the concerns (and biases) of the advertisers any more.
In fact, I believe traditional media is now more vulnerable to bias for commercial gain that companies that are publishing their own content.
Here’s the reason: biased content erodes your brand. If you are a media company and you publish biased stories, you devalue your media brand, but the company, whose chunk of advertising revenue won them the glowing reportage, keeps the reputational tarnish at arm’s length.
Content marketers, on the other hand, that publish biased, unbalanced misinformation directly decrease the value of their brand — the site they sponsor cannot be trusted. And quality content directly increases the value of their brand.
Customers are just too sophisticated for the old-style marketing, or media, these days. They want unbiased, entertaining information that respects their intelligence and their right to make up their own mind about where and how they spend their money.
I am not saying that all companies understand the need for content marketing to be unbiased and act accordingly — in fact a recent survey showed that only 29% of Australian marketers believe they are effective at content marketing.
But there are enough companies who understand the idea, and are embracing their new roles as media publishers, to drive the growth of several content marketing agencies, such as King Content, Edge Custom and 3Twins. KingContent is on the BRW Fast Starters list this year with 486% revenue growth in the past 12 months.
But how do we get the fearless investigative reporting that underpins our democracy? Somewhere, there are companies or organisations who will build a valuable brand on that kind of content. Probably one of the most outstanding examples is The Conversation, is a venture underwritten by universities as well as accounting firm, Ernst & Young, and the Commonwealth Bank.
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.