Five things brands can learn from journalists

This guest post is by Lauren Quaintance, award-winning journalist and head of content at Sydney content marketing agency Storify.

 

When I started my career as a journalist two decades ago, if you’d told me that brands would become publishers I would have laughed (loudly). We didn’t have email – never mind the internet – so the only way for brands to reach potential customers was by taking out an ad in one of the city’s two newspapers or a 30-second spot on free-to-air TV.

There were advertorials, of course, but these were turgid stories that droned on about a product written by some poor soul in the much-maligned advertising features department.

The internet changed everything. Now brands have their own websites and, just as importantly, social media. And, while they can’t exactly forget about traditional media outlets altogether, they can connect directly with customers through content that entertains, inspires or informs – and aligns with their brand values – without the hard sell.

Still, creating good content is not something that comes naturally to most marketers. And it’s harder than you think. Just like you wouldn’t assume you could pen a best-selling novel or direct an award-winning documentary series, you shouldn’t assume it’s easy to create content worthy of your audience’s attention. But if brands adopt the mind-set of a journalist (or better yet an editor) that’s a great start. Here are five things that brands can learn from publishers:

1. Keep a razor-sharp focus on your audience

While it’s tempting to make your brand and business objectives the centre of everything you do, if you are going to create content that is useful to your audience you need to understand who are they and what they want. Once you’ve figured that out adopt the mindset of an editor: if it’s not worth your audience’s attention – if it’s not going to make them laugh or cry or share an opinion – it’s not worth doing.

2. Don’t deceive – never try to hoodwink your audience

On the whole mainstream publishers treat the line between advertising and editorial as sacrosanct. That means you’ll rarely see advertorial – which talks directly about a product – passed off as editorial. In the same way brand publishers must resist the urge to publish advertising disguised as content and instead focus on creating stories that fulfill a need for their customers. Serve your audience, earn their trust, and the benefits will flow.

3. It’s all about the angle – have a point of view

Few people believe me when I tell them that 80-90% of story ideas proposed on reputable publications never make it into the final product. What works? Having a point of view. When I was head of travel for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the stories that rated best online were those that featured definitive statements such as the ‘fastest, longest, scariest’. A video of a landing at the so-called world’s scariest runway in Nepal, for example, was one of the highest rating stories in one particular year. Data from content discovery platform Outbrain shows that stories with negative superlatives such as ‘worst’ or ‘never’ rate better than positives such as ‘best’ or ‘always’. Be specific. Sharpen your angle. Have a point of view.

4. Respect the art of commissioning

Apart from sifting through story ideas, the role of a great editor has always been matching the writer to the story. Once you’ve found someone who is deeply passionate – and knowledgable – about your subject whether it’s adventure sport or cleaning tips, you need a written brief that gives a broad outline of the subject, the specific angle and the required tone. It’s a good discipline to think: what question should this story answer? How do I want the reader to think or feel or act? Then you need to provide coaching and feedback along the way to ensure that you get the result you want.

5. Use every platform to its best advantage

It’s no great surprise that every platform and device plays a different role in your customer’s daily content journey. Data from publishers suggests that people are on their mobiles during the morning commute, browsing on desktop computers and mobiles duiring their lunchbreak, and on tablets in the evening (probably while watching TV.) Consider, then, how to serve up the right content on the right platform at the right time. Is it short, newsy updates for the morning commute? Entertaining pieces to snack on at lunch? Longer-form video for the evening? Whatever it is, have a ‘time of day’ strategy.

 

So, those are some of the things brands can learn from journalism. If they heed these lessons, if they can combine the craft of journalism with the science of marketing, then there is nothing stopping them becoming great publishers.

 

Lauren Quaintance has a Master’s of Journalism from Columbia University in New York and has won more than two dozen awards for everything from investigative journalism to travel writing. As a managing editor at Fairfax Media she created multi-channel content solutions for major brands and is now head of content at Sydney content marketing agency Storify. She will be speaking at the ecommerce conference in Melbourne next month on ‘The New SEO: Creating Compelling Content to Engage With Your Audience’. 

Get out your wallets, paywalls are in

By Andrea Carson, University of Melbourne

 

The Guardian’s Australian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner did what many media commentators fail to do, last week, and disentangled the crisis facing print newspapers from the state of journalism. Too often the decline of print journalism is conflated with the future of journalism.

Viner, in an inspiring speech showed how the two were separate. But she muddied the waters about the role a paywall can play in funding newspaper journalism.

Studies have shown that falls in newspapers’ advertising revenues and print circulations can increase pressure for ‘serious newspapers’ to include more sensational stories on their digital websites. Some free online newspapers succumb to click-bait stories using sex, crime and celebrities to boost net traffic and lure advertisers.

Newspapers that use paywalls can dispense with click-bait and prioritise content to an audience willing to pay for quality. Early adopters of the paywall, such as the Wall Street Journal, have detailed audience data that allows advertisers to better target sales.

Those who read The Guardian will know it provides a counter example to this argument. It is a quality newspaper that has enormous global reach — the third most read English-speaking newspaper website in the world — behind the New York Times and Britain’s Daily Mail. It launched its Australian edition in May this year and, before that in 2011, its US edition.

The newspaper is free to read online with advertising revenues, print circulation and the 1936 Scott Trust supporting its journalism. It has adapted to the digital era and provides innovative journalism that actively involves the audience.

To allow this relationship to flourish, Viner argued the World Wide Web should remain open. It’s a noble concept and difficult to refute – we all benefit from sharing knowledge.

But Viner takes this view one step further and argues that paywalls are “utterly antithetical to the open web”. She said on Wednesday:

A paywalled website is just print in another form, making collaboration with the people formerly known as the audience much more difficult. You can’t take advantage of the benefits of the open web if you’re hidden away.

 

But, speaking at a Future of Journalism conference in Wales last month, I found in a comparative study of newspapers across Britain, the United States and Australia that this does not have to be the case.

A paywall does not necessarily limit audience reach or collaboration, but it can focus a newspapers’ reporting towards quality journalism.

You’ve got to make money somehow

The New York Times is a clear example of a large digital audience willing to pay for content. Like Britain’s Financial Times it has a metered paywall; and FT now has more digital subscribers than hard copy.

At the NYT, digital subscriptions have helped circulation revenue surpass advertising revenues. At the start of this year, the NYT’s metered paywall delivered 708,000 digital subscribers, a 45% year-over-year increase.

Like The Guardian, the NYT is a custodian of quality journalism with global reach. Unlike The Guardian, it has a paywall.

Equally, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, and USA Today have among the largest news audiences in the English-speaking world and their online content is provided without charge – so far.

But, The Guardian itself, although an inspiring example of open journalism, is not without its economic vulnerabilities. The New Yorker last week reported that the newspaper has lost money for the past nine years and, if not reversed, the Trust would run out of money this decade.

Meanwhile, Daily Mail has built its audience using tabloid-styled news and sensationalism including click-bait stories to boost web traffic. It has global reach but like most print newspapers it is losing paid readers and its online revenues alone are not yet enough to sustain its operations.

USA Today is also losing circulation and has just doubled its cover price from $1 to $2. Last month its publisher Larry Kramer said they would ‘explore’ paywall options. It is owned by America’s largest newspaper chain, Gannett, which introduced metered paywalls in 2012 to its 80 local mastheads. The US now has more than 400 newspapers with paywalls; 11 of their 20 biggest selling daily mastheads have some form of paywall.

How to fund newspaper journalism in the digital era is clearly a difficult problem to solve. Once, it was classified advertising, but that lucrative bond has broken.

And the rise of the internet has meant any non-media website can compete for advertising dollars. Digital advertising has become cheaper for advertisers in an over-saturated market, meaning smaller revenues for newspapers.

The comparative study found online newspapers’ success in attracting subscribers depended on the type of paywall used, whether it was hard or soft, and what type of content was behind it, whether it was niche or general news.

A hard paywall, where virtually no content is free, can be successful when a newspaper provides specialised content, such as the predominantly business newspaper, WSJ – it has almost 900,000 digital subscribers.

It is true that free online newspapers and national public broadcasters such as the government-funded ABC challenge newspaper paywall models that charge for general news content. This is particularly testing for general newspapers that lock content behind hard paywalls.

But a soft paywall, and there are several types, allows some content for free. The metered model caps the number of free articles before readers are asked to pay: NYT provides 10 articles a month; The Age provides 30. This model enables newspaper websites and conversations to remain open to non-paying readers. By providing some free content this model does not limit traffic as much as a hard paywall, and it tempts readers wanting more, to subscribe.

Sorry, you’ll need to log in to see this

A 2012 US Alliance for Audited Media report found that most US mastheads favoured a soft paywall (77%) over a hard (17%) paywall. A recent Reuters Institute study found that hard paywalls can curb website traffic flows significantly (85% to 95%) in the first few months compared to 5 to 15 per cent loss of digital traffic when using a metered paywall.

In fact, the last 12 months could be described as the year of the paywall in these three countries. More paywalls were erected in 2012 than in any other single year. In 2013, there are now more Australian major daily newspapers with a paywall than without, as can be seen in Figure 1.

Figure: Comparison of newspapers with paywalls in Australia, the US and the UK.

 

 

Alliance for Audited Media 2013; Carson 2013

 

 

A few months ago two of Britain’s biggest selling daily print newspapers, the Telegraph and The Sun put their content behind paywalls despite earlier hesitations. Website traffic has decreased, but this is expected initially.

The recent paywall uptake sharply conflicts with the view of Arianna Huffington who declared in 2009 that the ‘paywall is history‘. Viner also left her audience wondering when she said: “Economically, it’s too early to rule them [paywalls] out when we’re all trying to survive.”

Instead, newspapers have been experimenting with different types of paywalls and tweaking prices, more often than not settling on the metered model for general news. Paywalls might not be the entire solution for finding a new revenue source for newspapers’ journalism, but the soft paywall can be part of it.

 

Andrea Carson does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Guardian Australia goes live

The eagerly-anticipated Guardian Australia led by editor-in-chief Katharine Viner has this morning launched with the digital edition.

The cyber newsroom leads with an interactive feature going into detail about the January bushfires in Tasmania with the striking imagery of the Holmes family clinging to a jetty, submerged in the waters.

Add to this an exclusive video interview between prime minster Julia Gillard and Guardian Australia political editor Lenore Taylor, and Australian readers are due for a fresh perspective on Australian and world news with the site offering an ‘open and unique’ approach to digital storytelling.

“The Guardian has a long established tradition of high-quality, independent journalism combining editorial integrity and journalistic innovation,” says Viner. “We already have a large and loyal Australian readership, who tell us they want more of what we do.”

“Our research indicates that Australians are looking for an alternative that is truly independent, both global and local, which offers serious reporting and lively commentary, and is all-embracing in its use of everything that the digital sphere has to offer,” she adds.

Online and commercial broadcast news worst of distrusted media: study

Australians are more likely to distrust than trust news on websites, blogs and commercial TV and radio, and more trust banks and mining companies than the media, according to a recent study.

The media industry was the second-most distrusted on the list of industries polled by Essential Media Communications, with 67% of the public distrustful of the media industry compared to only 30% who trusted it.

Among the different media outlets, commercial talk-back radio programs were the most distrusted, followed by commercial TV news and current affairs programs, news and opinion websites and commercial radio news programs. Blogs were even more distrusted than official media outlets, while the ABC’s TV and radio news programs garnered the highest levels of trust.

 

Q. How much trust do you have in what you read or hear in the following media?

The study, conducted among 1000 Australians between 16 and 20 January, also found that more residents of New South Wales distrusted the Daily Telegraph than trusted it, making the Sydney tabloid the least-trusted newspaper.

Fellow News Limited paper, Melbourne’s Herald Sun, also attracted high levels of distrust, while the publisher’s The Australian enjoyed considerably higher levels of trust at 65%.

The most trusted newspapers were Fairfax’s The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald which 71% of the public expressed a lot or some trust in.

 

Q. How much trust do you have in what you read in the following newspapers?

Note: Question was asked of residents of each publication’s state only

 

Trust in each of the publications has dropped by between 4% and 8% since a previous run of the study in mid 2011.

 

Your marketing strategy in the media spotlight

There’s often one thing that gets left out of the publicity conversation: the importance of a prepared spokesperson. Having a good spokesperson on hand is a key component of almost any media opportunity, from radio interviews to feature stories in magazines. A successful interview outcome requires succinct, insightful answers. It also requires the ability to lead the discussion towards interesting topics and company messages, phrased carefully for the occasion and seamlessly delivered. So, it’s no surprise that being the chosen spokesperson for your business can be overwhelming, for newbie and experienced spokespeople alike.

Today, I’d like to address two assumptions that can undermine even the most experienced and prepared of spokespeople.

The first of these is that it is up to the journalist to ask all the right questions to draw the best story from the spokesperson. It is true that the journalist plays a key role here, but there are mitigating circumstances that can prevent them from helping you get your story across. Journalists are often time poor and pulled in various directions across multiple topics. So, to ensure the best possible result from your interaction with a journalist you need to identify your messages, collate them and prepare yourself to use them flexibly throughout the conversation. Practice is really important, not just to memorise the messages but to ensure flow and direction – yes, a practised spokesperson can play a role in the direction of the conversation.

The second assumption is that the spokesperson is doing the journalist a favour by being available for the interview. It is true that a good interview will be of mutual benefit to spokesperson and journalist alike. However, a lot of groundwork can go into securing an interview on any platform. Busy executives disconnected from the publicity process sometimes miss this groundwork and don’t realise how precious the opportunity is. It’s important that he or she realises that it is a fabulous opportunity to have one-on-one attention from a journalist, and that approaching the opportunity properly prepared is essential to the outcome of the story and the opportunity.

To navigate these issues and to ensure an exceptional outcome from the media opportunity, a spokesperson often needs a little guidance. Media training allows the spokesperson to run through how the interview will work, which messages will resonate with the audience and rehearse potential questions. Practice really does make perfect when it comes to interviews.

But media training isn’t just good for a single opportunity – it is the basis for great media relations in the future. Why? Well, media training gives the spokesperson – and by extension the business – an outside perspective on what the most important messages are to their audience, and how they need to be conveyed. It can also really help the spokesperson distil the messages and work out how to frame answers to sticky or complex questions – this isn’t necessarily about ‘spin’ but rather making sure that the conversation flows into interesting, topical areas. Finally, it uncovers the interview introvert in otherwise confident executives who have never had trouble speaking at conferences, but clam up in front of someone with a Dictaphone or a TV camera.

Basically, a little publicity know-how goes a long way when it comes to making sure that your marketing strategy is supported and extended in the public arena.

 

Trust in adland and journos on par with car salesman

Ad execs and journalists rank among the least trusted professionals in the country, according to a study, which places them on par with car salesman and real estate agents in the minds of the public.

Only 8% of Australians rate advertisers as having a high level of ethics and honesty in Roy Morgan’s 2012 ‘Image of Professions’ survey, making the advertising fraternity the second least trusted profession out of the 30 surveyed.

Journalists didn’t fare much better, placing as the sixth least trusted with only 12% of the public perceiving their honesty and ethics to be of a high level.

In general trust in professionals declined over the past year, with 18 of the 30 professions surveyed falling, while only six increased. While it was lowly ranked, advertising did notch an increase, putting some space between it and car salesman which ranked as the most distrusted professionals for the 30th year in a row.

Nurses were seen as the most ethical and honest for the 18th year in a row, since the profession was first included on the survey in 1994.

Other professionals to emerge as well respected were pharmacists (88%), doctors (83%), school teachers (76%), dentists (75%), engineers (70%), high court judges (70%), state supreme court judges (69%) and police (69%).

In the wake of political scandals at the time of polling, Federal MPs fell in regard by 4% to rank near the bottom as did State MPs, down 2%. For both it represented the lowest ratings for ethics and honesty since 1998. Ministers of religion also recorded their lowest ever rating for ethics and honesty, since inclusion on the survey in 1996, down by 8% go 43%.

The Guardian pushes ‘open journalism’ in Three Little Pigs spot

A new two-minute TVC for The Guardian, starring the three little pigs and the big bad wolf, is pushing the news outlet’s ‘open journalism’ by re-imagining the childhood story in the modern world.

The spot follows the (curly) tale from front page headlines, through social media discussions, and unexpected twists.

If you can’t see the video below, please refresh this page.

The spot, by BBH London, forms part of a major new brand campaign for The Guardian, and includes print and online executions.

Editor-in-chief of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, explains the thinking behind the push as a desire to open the paper’s sources to include, well, anyone, anywhere:

“The travel section is searching for a thousand people who know Berlin like the back of their hand. The environment team is seeking to expand the range, authority and depth of their coverage. The foreign desk wants to harness as many Arab voices as possible to help report and explain the spring revolutions,” Rusbridger writes in a blog post.

Image source: BBH

Twitter-combing tool to help journalists find breaking news

A new tool to help journalists find breaking news and eyewitness accounts via social media has been developed by American academics and Microsoft, according to journalism school The Poynter Institute.

The tool, called Seriously Rapid Source Review (SRSR), will help journalists sort the wheat from the chaff by sifting social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, for credible eyewitnesses, reports, images and video from the ground.

The three researchers who created SRSR, Nick Diakopoulos and Mor Naaman at Rutgers University and Munmun De Choudhury at Microsoft, built it to make the job of combing the internet – and Twitter’s 200 million daily tweets – quicker and easier.

According to Poynter, SRSR features include automatic identification of eyewitnesses with approximate 89% precision and will list users in various archetypes – journalists, bloggers, organisations or unaffiliated citizens.

The tool, which is still in development, assesses the credibility of sources based on their Twitter profiles to determine where they are and what sort of networks and connections they have.

In the case of a weather event such as a cyclone, journalists will be able to search for key words such as ‘cyclone’ or ‘damage’ and find tweets posted near a certain location. If something has been widely retweeted, they can follow the trail back to the source and see what local, well-connected journalists are pointing to.

Twitter has a habit of beating the media to the punch when it comes to breaking news, as we were reminded recently with Whitney Houston’s death.

Nick Diakopoulos, one of the project’s authors, told Poynter that idea of the tool is not to replace existing newsgathering techniques. “It’s really to augment them, to give them additional cues to help them filter” the newsworthy tweets from the irrelevant and misleading ones.

Prints future hedged on a rumour?

Conde Nast has announced it is working on a digital version of Wired magazine.

Conde Nast said the digital version is being developed for the rumoured but much-hyped Apple tablet. The publisher is intending to emulate 18 of its titles to the format. The news comes following Conde Nast’s iPhone conversion of GQ. The digital version will be similar to that of the iPhone version, mirroring content but providing additional multimedia options.

Despite Apple having not confirmed the tablet, a number of publishers have begun developing conversions with tablets in mind. The move toward tablets is part of a wider digital focus by publishers. Earlier in the year, Time assembled a consortium of rivals to discuss the future of digital newsstands.

The popularity and development of tablets will likely have a major impact on consumption of news and information and could influence the Murdoch versus Google saga.

YouTube Direct to harness citizen journalists

Google has unveiled a tool that enables traditional television and online news agencies to create a platform to manage citizen journalists.

According to a report in MediaPost Online, platform will allow media organisations to request, review and rebroadcast clips directly from YouTube-member pages.

YouTube Direct, described as a ‘virtual assignment desk’, gives traditional news agencies the ability to tap into content uploaded and housed on Google’s video site. Through an application programming interface, the open-source application allows media organizations to put a custom version of YouTube’s upload platform on their own website.

Members upload videos directly into the application, which also enables news agencies to review submissions and select the best ones to broadcast on-air and online.

Head of news and politics on YouTube, Steve Grove, says the tool enables media companies to tap into the community of citizen journalists who upload content daily.

“Users who become popular and well-known by creating good content – one-off viral hits – for news organisations can join the partner program. We can help them make money by running ads against the videos,” explained Grove.

The platform has already been used in the US by publications such as The Huffington Post, National Public Radio (NPR), Politico, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post and WHDH-TV/WLVI-TV in Boston.

"Back off" journalists covering sport

International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper has told sporting bodies to “back off” restricting media outlets and journalists covering major events.

Gosper cautioned some bodies were putting themselves at risk in the long run if they restrict journalists covering major events.

Sporting federations interfering with freedom of the press in covering events are going down a risky road… They should back off,” said Gosper.

The call comes at a time when society and media at large are reevaluating the line between professional and amateur coverage. Intellectual property protection at major events has been fighting battles on multiple fronts as well, where online coverage is causing tension.

A number of sporting federations need to understand that it is the freedom of the press to write about matters relating to the sport between competition that sustains public interest. It is information the public has a right to know in a free society,” said Gosper.

Moments with marketers: Cecelia Haddad

Marketingmag.com.au chats to Cecelia Haddad – director of Marketing Elements Pty Ltd. If you would like to see a certain
marketer profiled, please email your suggestion to Sean Greaney on sean.greaney@niche.com.au.


What do you do?

I am the director of Marketing Elements Pty Ltd.

What was your first job?

I was a personal secretary in a government department and terrible at it: I could never read my own shorthand! My first PR job was with Estee Lauder publicising men toiletries way before the invention of the ‘metro-sexual’.

What did you study?

Diplomas of Public Relations, Marketing and Journalism

Describe a typical day?

I’m usually at my laptop by 6am with a large plunger of coffee beside me, working ‘til 7.30am. Then I swing by to drop my daughter at daycare on the way to the office. At my desk usually no later than 9. Then it’s the usual meetings, phone calls, etc. I try to make one new contact a day or reconnect with someone I haven’t communicated with for some time. My work hours vary but I usually have dinner somewhere between 6 and 7 and am back at my laptop ‘til 8.30pm when I try to switch off with a good book.

What is on the agenda for the next year?

Growth and new technologies to explore.

What brand do you love the most? Dislike the most? Why?

I’m too fickle. I change my mind a lot (so much for brand loyalty) but consistency always gets my vote and arrogance doesn’t. There is no substitute for good customer service.

What do you believe has been the most significant moment in the history of marketing?

Too hard! I started out on electronic typewriters and telexes (what you say?). Equipment, technology, social interaction online – all of the above. It’s constantly evolving and that’s why it’s such a great industry to work in.

Where can people find you?