In a recent post by Eric Alterman
at the Center for American Progress, the grim nature of the ongoing cuts to the modern American newsroom is explored. It goes without saying that editorial layoffs are bad news for the public trust, as the remaining journalists are being made to cover more ground with less resources and fewer colleagues. And this equation is leading to a bleak end for investigative journalism, the backbone of the public trust.
In order for editorial staffs to remain intact, news properties need to generate healthy advertising revenues across all platforms on which they publish - digital, print, tablet, mobile. This is certainly not a novel assertion, but as the global economy continues its listless zombie walk the mainstream advertising market remains fickle and unpredictable.
As a result, the pressures from the commercial side of the publishing business are being felt more keenly among the editorial teams. In the backdrop of this troubled equation, marketers continue to seek alignment with relevant content that is simply no longer being produced. This decline in editorial production is leading to vacuums in content wells that had otherwise been lined with advertising dollars.
And these vacuums are being backfilled through two methods: (1) strapped editorial staffers are moving away from their assigned coverage to moonlight in content areas of interest to a given sponsor or (2) cerebral content marketing solutions are being crafted through partnerships with smart commercial teams.
The first method is a direct threat to the public trust. Marketers and commercial teams at publishers need to operate with deep respect for the church/state divide between editorial interests and those expressed by commercial forces. If an editorial team member is asked to craft a 10-part series on a theme of interest to an advertiser, and coverage of other matters on that journalist's radar becomes anemic, we are collectively entering unsavory ground and are chipping away at the values of democracy itself.
The second method, the deployment of thoughtful long-form content marketing, offers marketers deeper opportunities for showcasing their products or services while also showcasing their wit. High-quality content marketing, and Bernie Thiel discusses this well
in his recent post for the Content Marketing Institute, can take on any number of distribution forms (modular editorial, info-graphics, event amplifications, branded content blogs, long-form video, embedded content wells) and can further the chapter-by-chapter directives of the long-form narrative.
It is counterintuitive to consider content marketing a savior of the public trust, but editorial consumption patterns have changed to accommodate short-form tap-outs in social media hubs like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook. Social media has fed the earned media desire in the owned to paid to earned continuum, but consumer attention spans within social media platforms are entirely non-existent. And this attention span deficit swings the pendulum back to core source editorial environments where long-form content and long-form content marketing can serve parallel information-oriented purposes.
Content marketing programs come to publishers at a larger dollar investment, and this furthers the aims of the editorial organization through healthy balance sheets. Content marketing programs also lessen the content creation burden placed on the editorial teams, thereby ensuring the purity and necessary depth of the journalism needed to sustain the public trust.