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What the crumbling state of the media means for digital marketing

We’re entering – or, I should say, re-entering – an era where “Content is King.” You might not realize it, however, from all the hand-wringing about the end of the news media. But if you’ve been following the latest trends about brand journalism or content marketing (we need a better moniker or at least an agreement on what to call it), you’ll realize that content is certainly on the rise. It’s just who should produce it that is in dispute.

Let’s look at some of the trends:

  • The news media is shedding journalists. Newsrooms are down by 30% since 2000, according to the State of the News Media 2013, an annual report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Media. For the first time since 1978, there are fewer than 40,000 full-time professional employees in the industry.
  • Pew also notes that people are no longer as devoted to a single news source. That’s no surprise. With social media, people now graze for news and tend to read articles or view videos from an array of sources. Loyalty to media brands is on the wane.
  • Newsmakers are seeking to fill the news void by delivering it directly to the public arena, bypassing the media, the Pew study said. A 2008 study by Robert McChesney and John Nichols found that the ratio of public relations workers to journalists was 3.6 to 1. And last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted public relations employment would increase by 21% – faster than average – between 2010 and 2020.
  • The New Journalism
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  • Google and Bing are aggressively going after low-quality content, revising their algorithms to favor valuable content on a topic, not just spam. Google’s Panda and Penguin releases were all about improving search results by eliminating spam content.
  • Several new companies are helping brands create and curate high-quality content for their websites: Contently (founded 2010), Narrative Science (incorporated 2010) and NewsCred (started 2008) are a few.
  • There has been a lot of discussion – and controversy – about publishers who are experimenting with native advertising, which places advertiser-supported content alongside traditional editorial content. But far less attention is being paid to publishers who are producing content for brands’ websites. Fortune, Huffington Post, and Meredith Publishing are all entering this space. (Ken Doctor provides an excellent overview, including an in-depth look at NewsCred.)
  • Brands are putting content marketing as the top priority in their digital marketing strategy (along with conversion rate optimization) and are prepared to invest more money in this strategy (86% of B2C marketers will keep or increase current spend levels, while 54% of B2B marketers will increase spending).
  • Yet, what are the top content challenges for marketers? Creating and distributing high-quality content.

Add to these trends a simple fact: there are precious few on the brand side to help create and curate content. Marketing departments aren’t structured or staffed with the right personnel to run a news website. Some brands are making the shift, but many more will need to do so in the near future.

What this says to me is that the demand for high-quality thought-leadership content that will drive traffic to brand websites is about to explode. Thus, there is a huge opportunity for media and journalists to sell content to brands.

This is why talk of online ad revenue and subscription models drives me crazy. Except for a handful of publishers, most seem to be missing the bigger picture. Talk about disruptive.

I don’t see newsrooms crumbling. I just see them reconstituting themselves in marketing departments.

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