Those filthy corporations will save journalism

In the last couple of posts, I’ve focused on how the social audience is demanding trustworthy content and how the media is largely failing to meet that demand.  Today I want to focus on where they are actually starting to get it:

The corporations that used to be advertisers.

Yes, the very organizations that are accused of perverting journalism are actually the source of salvation for journalism, currently in the B2B tech world primarily, but it will expand.  I’ve written about this process for several years now, but here’s a recap of how it happened. Rji_q10a_0

  • The world wide web made it possible for corporations to distribute press releases and marketing material to the customer base through email and websites, bypassing traditional media.  Advertising revenue was diverted in the budgets for those purposes.

  • The drop in revenue caused the media to start cutting editorial staff making comprehensive coverage of industries very difficult if not impossible.

  • The audience for the media began to notice the drop off in coverage quality and started losing audience trust.  Circulation suffered but the media had already turned to electronic distribution and found ways to fudge readership numbers and engagement to keep the ad rates up.  The advertisers were not sure they were getting accurate numbers but could not prove it.  Advertising budgets continued to shrink.

  • The media began to realize they had pretty good lists of subscribers and could create “communities” out of them and sell access to those communities to former advertisers to help them become “journalists” and rebrand their marketing materials.  Since the corporations were providing 90 percent of the content, the media could jettison more editorial staff and use the remaining to edit the marketing content into something resembling news, and charge up the wazoo for the service.

  • The corporations learned a very interesting: There lists of their customers and potential customers were as good or better than the media’s.  So why did they need to pay for the media lists.  They also discovered there were services that would repurpose content elsewhere (they used to be called plagiarists) and deliver it to the corporations for their own internal media.

  • Then they learned that those services produced crappy content that no one read.  They learned this because they hired other services to give them readership information they could not get from the media.

  • Then they realized that there are a lot of out of work journalists who will work for less than the media wants to charge them for the services of an experienced journalist... and they would be happy to do the work because it paid better than their media jobs paid.  The corporations now had the ability to be their own media and by allowing their in-house journalists more editorial freedom than they were getting from third party media, they could raise the level of trust their customers would have for them.

This last bullet point is where we are today and it is only just beginning.  Intel, Qualcomm, Adobe, and a long list of significant companies have already launched independent online publications, run by significant journalists.  Other companies, like Cadence Design and Oracle, have created editor-in-chief positions to oversee all social content and filled the positions with solid journalists.  Slowly but surely, the importance of truth seen from multiple positions and developing trust has become a core principal for many corporations.

So if corporations in the B2B space are taking over for third party media, what does the future hold?  That’s next.