Gawker made a splash this week with a report that says in addition to criteria such as “Quality of Writing” and “Productivity/Tenacity,” a Time Inc. spreadsheet used to evaluate writers and editors also contains a column titled, “Produces content that is beneficial to the advertiser relationship.”
The report was given to Gawker by the Newspaper Guild, which has filed an arbitration demand against Time Inc. to dispute the use of these criteria as a basis for writer lay-offs. While there’s probably more to it than a seemingly outrageous violation of ad/edit ethics (a Sports Illustrated spokesperson tells Gawker that “The Guild’s interpretation is misleading and takes one category out of context”), this story comes on the heels of a report that Conde Nast tried to recruit big-name writers in the food industry for a custom video series for seed giant Monsanto—without telling the writers that the project was an advertorial. On the surface, August hasn’t been a good month for editorial standards in the magazine industry.
At the same time, the survival of quality journalism may depend on editors playing a bigger role in the financial success of their companies. The two extremes of the edit/ad relationship fall into camps of “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” when it comes to business considerations, and pay-for-play. As is usually the case with extremes, both are wrong.
Historically regarded by publishing executives as a cost center, content creators who can help propose and realize programs with significant revenue derived from either advertising/sponsorship (while staying away from pay-for-play) or paid content can help raise their value exponentially. “Engaging with the business side does not automatically mean compromising professional integrity,” said Bill McDowell, vice president and editorial director of MTG Media during a session at ABM’s Regional Training Series in Chicago called “Raise Your Business IQ and Get a Better Seat at the Table.” Instead, McDowell urged editors to look for opportunities to create content that users will pay for.
Old-school media master ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic has moved more nimbly into the age of the Internet than many marketers who were in diapers when Weird Al was parodying Michael Jackson and Madonna. Publications as diverse as Ad Age and The Atlantic have been writing about his Web-savvy “eight videos in eight days” campaign, out this week promoting his latest album, Mandatory Fun.
And in the last of the eight videos released, Weird Al offers a cautionary lesson to business professionals — and if I may presume a bit, to business journalists — with his new track, titled “Mission Statement,” which first appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog. The song features all the cliches, catch phrases and jargon that business writers would do well to avoid. Several of my own pet peeves were among those called out by Weird Al: “at the end of the day,” “cross-platform innovation,” “bleeding edge and next generation” and “incentivized” — even if a couple of those are reasonable in moderation, surely we hear too much of them at conferences and in the our own publications.
Actually, in addition to “Mission Statement,” another of Weird Al’s latest songs is word-focused as well. Last week, he released a video and song, called “Word Crimes,” just for grammar nerds, singing about the perils of its/it’s, serial commas, less/fewer and the correct use of quotation marks.
We ignore Weird Al at our peril!
By Michael Moran Alterio
I went to our Executive Forum keynote, where Dan Roth, head of LinkedIn’s content strategy, talked about the ways publishers can work with LinkedIn to grow their audiences and gain exposure among business professionals. His keynote was titled, “LinkedIn: Friend AND Foe?”
I was curious going into the session, hoping to hear what LinkedIn is planning next. I thought it was exciting to think that LinkedIn was branching out from networking and job hunting to content, especially since Roth’s background is as a great writer – Roth got his start reporting at Forbes and Wired, and then became managing editor at Fortune.com.
But the takeaways I got from his keynote evoked current trends that actually devalue the work he himself used to do. Here’s my take on what he said:
• As business media evolves, the conversations about the events of the day are as valuable as the primary reporting of the events. “The reader sees himself as equal in authority to the author of the article,” Roth said. LinkedIn is hoping to leverage more reader-generated content as LinkedIn users engage in conversations about, say, articles from content publishing companies. Note that LinkedIn members contribute this valuable content for free.
• LinkedIn is soliciting engaging essays from “influencers” and “thought leaders,” big names like Jack Welch, Richard Branson, Bill Gates and T. Boone Pickens. All of whom contribute their words for free. Oh, sorry, I mean for exposure and metrics around who is reading their insights. But these influencers see value in it.
• LinkedIn also loves it when publishers use their “InShare” buttons to send metrics about readers back to LinkedIn, and where LinkedIn users are having conversations … in LinkedIn groups and in their content feeds that they share with other users. Again, LinkedIn does not pay publishers for any of this.
• LinkedIn is launching a new feature, now in beta, where publishers can give LinkedIn their full RSS feed, as much content as they want, to run on publisher LinkedIn pages. Publishers can also accessorize these pages with photos, graphics, and other content. In exchange for letting publishers put their content on LinkedIn, publishers get detailed metrics on who is viewing, using, and talking about the publishers’ content. No money changes hands, of course. And due to privacy considerations, odds are LinkedIn will not share the actual profiles of readers. So no lead gen opportunities there.
So what are the great content initiatives at LinkedIn? Get important people to contribute content for free. Get users to comment and converse on this content for free. And get publishers to contribute content for free. Use this content to bring users to LinkedIn every day.
by Mark Sableman, ABM’s Information Policy Counsel
An important recent court decision, Associated Press v. Meltwater, provides useful guidance on news aggregation, distinguishing computer-driven commercial services that act as substitutes for original sources from editorially selective services that refer readers to the original sources.
The case has been in the spotlight for about a year because it pitted the Associated Press, an aggressive protector of its copyrights, against Meltwater, an international electronic news clipping service that essentially scrapes the Internet for snippets of news reports and sells it to its clients. AP carefully set up the case, describing its news reporting efforts, including sending journalists around the world, often risking their lives, to collect important and valuable news, which, it alleged, Meltwater then grabbed without authorization and profitably resold to its clients.
When I started my journalism career, things were simple. Journalists wrote content for readers, marketers provided information to journalists for the content and brands provided the products that the information came from. Four years later, brands no longer need journalists to reach their audiences, and all three parties are taking on different roles.
“Things are changing, that’s for sure,” wrote Digiday writer Haniya Rae. “One major shift is that everyone is everyone else’s business. You have marketers that think they’re journalists, brands that act like publishers, and publishers trying to be agencies. It can seem like everyone wants to do something — anything! — other than what they’re doing.”
Two trends that are affecting both publishers and marketers are social media and content marketing. With these efforts, brands can directly reach their audiences. Brands think, “Why promote a product through a publisher, when I can just send a Tweet or develop a company blog?” For the brand, it’s instantaneous, more engaging and the company can see the results first-hand. Brands are recruiting marketers for these initiatives leaving publishers out of the loop.