Tag Archives: internet

Is Branded Content Journalism?

25 Feb

Like lots of young J-School graduates, I have one foot in the traditional journalism world and one foot…somewhere else. One former schoolmate works as a “community manager” at an Internet startup. Another friend is a Web editor/SEO specialist at an online newspaper. Yet another sunlights as “communications director” for a government agency.

As I’ve discussed before, I’m the editor of a lightly-branded media and marketing blog called Sparksheet, which is both an independent-minded industry publication and a strategic corporate property. So I’m always navigating the line between editorial and advertorial, zealously guarding my journalistic independence and integrity while making sure not to embarrass the company or its clients.

Which brings me to this recent blog post by Sally Gethin. A self-proclaimed “old fashioned journalist,” Gethin edits a respected inflight entertainment industry newsletter (yes, such a thing exists). Although I can’t say for certain, the post seems to be a thinly-veiled attack on Sparksheet.

(Note: For some reason she seems to have deleted the post. But here’s another Web lesson for Ms. Gethin: online content is forever. You can find a cached version here– just scroll down a few posts to “When news becomes clutter”).

Indeed, most of the post is an inchoate rant. She blames the Internet for killing investigative reporting. She laments that “There is too much online ‘chatter’ going on.” Regarding Twitter, she contends that “just the word itself defames the notion of real debate.” Really?

But the question of whether branded content should be regarded as credible journalism is a legitimate one. So here is my response (originally posted as a comment on her blog):

As a fellow journalism school graduate and someone who works in the branded media space, I couldn’t disagree more.

First, the idea that the Internet and “digital media” are killing investigative journalism is ludicrous. Check out websites like ProPublica, Spot.us and Talking Points Memo, which have picked up the investigative torch dropped by newspapers, magazines and TV stations that are no longer willing or able to invest in proper muckraking.

It’s a shame that so many legacy media outlets are struggling. But “old fashioned journalists” and media executives are far from blameless. Ignoring what happened to the music industry in the face of Napster and iTunes, they failed to grasp the impact digital media would have on their outdated and inefficient business models (low subscription costs, print classifieds, un-targeted ads, etc.).  Instead of seeing the Internet as an opportunity, they saw it as a threat, and leaner, keener outlets rose up to fill the void. Continue reading


Content, Design, Experience: Notes from #UXMTL

26 Nov

Photo by celinecelines via Flickr

As I wrote in my last post, the Internet may enable us to connect with countless people from all corners of the world.  But that only fuels are desire for face-to-face meetings and personal connections. That’s why God Google people invented Tweetups, or small grassroots get-togethers of local Twitter users and like-minded geeks twits people. OK, geeks.

Tonight I went to an event organized by UXMTL, “a group that aims to help Montreal organizations create more enjoyable, useful and meaningful connections with their audiences, through User Experience Design,” as they put it.

Ironically, the venue was having connectivity issues (and I’m currently iPhone-less), so I wasn’t able to share my notes in real time. Normally, banging on my laptop or phone when people are talking makes me feel like a tool. At these events, being offline makes me feel naked.

Better late than never though, right? Here are some highlights from the evening’s panel discussion. Note that these are paraphrases/interpretations, not direct quotes. The panel consisted of:

Continue reading

I Miss Today’s Papers

29 Sep

Last month Slate announced that it was pulling the plug on Today’s Papers, its popular daily summary of the morning journals, and replacing it with The Slatest, a thrice-daily aggregator of “the 12 most important news stories, blog entries, magazine features, and Web videos of the moment.” Like many diehard Slatees, I was shocked. TP had become the prologue to my mornings. It was a quick, concise read, that made me feel reasonably well informed before starting my day. But I soon chalked up my initial reaction to nostalgia. After all, Slate’s editors were right. The news cycle is no longer daily. And newspapers aren’t the only players driving it. Surely, as an online editor, I should be the last person to cling to such a relic.

But now it’s clear to me that Slate got it all wrong. The lesson of online news is not that readers want their news all the time and from countless sources. It’s that they can afford to be pickier about when and from what medium they get it.  Sometimes that may still be from the newspaper at the breakfast table. At other times, it may be via smart phone on the way to the pub. In any case, organizations need to add value to the news by providing either content or context. I don’t need Slate to tell me what the 12 most important news stories are right now. That’s what my RSS feeds and Twitter and Digg and the myriad other aggregators that have emerged in the 14 years since Slate introduced TP are for. Continue reading