Journalism’s Experimental Phase

Posted by: in Advertising, Content, PESO Media, Thought Leadership on January 14, 2014

2014 has started off with a bang in terms of journalism. Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg launched their Re/code site (along with All Things D staffers), the Wall Street Journal regrouped its technology coverage under WSJ.D and assembled a solid new team to cover personal tech reviews. David Pogue now heads up the Yahoo! Tech site that was unveiled last week with a new team as well, and just recently, CNN just unveiled a revamped Tech section that consolidates its tech coverage with that from its CNN Money counterpart.

In the midst of these changes, another thing happened last week: the New York Times website redesign. Like a lot of folks, I watched the redesign coverage with interest, and was glad to see that most of the reactions were positive. On the surface, a site redesign itself is not a big deal. But the changes are New York Times are much more than a visual makeover. The most significant part of what New York Times rolled out was their model of native advertising, and Dell happened to be the first example.

New York Times native advertising

New York Times native advertising paid for Dell

Two things about New York Times’ native advertising effort stood out to me: 1) It’s a hybrid model fueled by content and 2) The native advertising is hosted at instead of from the domain.

When I say it’s a hybrid model, I mean that it’s more than just content from New York Times and from Dell. The New York Times content is a mix of stories selected by Dell and that some of the content was produced from a “content studio” from a Times editor that was not from the New York Times newsroom. And point #2 is more than just tech geek stuff. New York Times will be building a repository of ads that will be searchable and indexed independent of content. The content in this repository will be searchable potentially forever, but at the very least, for long after a given advertising campaign ends. This gives brands the benefit of extending their content to a much broader audience. This Ad Age story delves into more if you’re interested.

So, besides these changes offering a window into the rapidly-changing state of journalism, why should this matter to brands? Because if New York Times implementation of native advertising proves effective, it means brands need to start thinking like a publisher even on advertising side of the house. Many brands like Red Bull, Intel and Coca-Cola are already thinking like publishers on the Marketing side (Red Bull and Intel are W2O clients) in their approach to content development. In my view  (and a lot of other folks here at W2O) more brands should be thinking of themselves as publishers in 2014 and beyond.

You can’t be a publisher without content. Developments like this means content strategy matters more than ever. I agree with Michael that brands must get content right in 2014. Many brands understand the need for content as they maintain a social presence in places like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Many of those same brands have their own corporate blog (or blogs) as well. While I continue to believe that corporate blogs are the natural place for many brands to use as a their publishing hub, the truth is it doesn’t matter where your publishing hub is… what matters is that you have one (or that you’re taking steps to build one).

The content in your publishing hub helps your brand rise above the noise of the social web from a marketing standpoint. Now, if that same content becomes part of your advertising efforts, it takes on a whole new level of importance.

The experimental phase of journalism is in full swing, and it brings much opportunity to brands that think like publishers.

By: Lionel Menchaca

Lionel used to be Dell's Chief Blogger, beginning in 2006 when Dell launched its first blog. Now he's Director of Corporate & Strategy for WCG.

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2 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said

    Great observations. It’s definitely a slippery slope but if the Times is doing it (given their resistance to change in the past) it speaks volumes. I just wonder about where this ultimately leaves journalism and all of the standards that go with it. Can the two coexist or is there an inherent conflict that’s bound to present a whole new set of issues?

  2. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in. That’s part of the reason I called this journalism’s experimentation phase. Not sure where it ultimately leaves things, but I’d err on the side of coexistence out of necessity more than anything else.

    Kudos to the New York Times though for taking a risk. We’ll have a clearer picture a bit further down the road.

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