Posts Taged journalism

Business Needs Newspapers Too

The media’s been buzzing about John Oliver’s recent Last Week Tonight segment on modern journalism. You really ought to watch it yourself (beware a healthy dose of profanity), but the gist is not exactly breaking news: traditional newspapers are in big trouble. Faced with plummeting ad revenue and a public increasingly used to free, 24-hour news, papers are cutting qualified, capable journalists, and in exchange for clickbait. As Oliver quipped, “All the puppy news that’s fit to print and maybe some Iraq news, too, if we can afford it”

Why newspapers matter

But Oliver also emphasizes how dependent he and other online and TV reporters are on the legwork of journalists. And he explains that investigative journalists provide a valuable public service by keeping corruption in check and policing the powerful. Dropping readership or not, they can still have enormous impact. Last year we saw it in our own backyard: Though allegations of corruption in the office of Governor John Kitzhaber had been spreading for months, he only stepped down once The Oregonian, Portland’s leading paper, called for his departure.

Why newspapers matter to business

Oliver’s segment emphasized the value that newspaper journalism has for society and the general public, but he could have also discussed its importance for the business world. The A.wordsmith team turns to a range of outlets, but working with print media is an essential part of the PR toolbox. A.wordsmith clients, whether they realize it or not, benefit from local newspapers as individual citizens and as members of the business world.

It’s hard to say whether this will do anything to steer the newspaper industry in a new direction. Regardless, Oliver’s message is loud and clear: “A big part of the blame for this industry’s dire straits is on us and our unwillingness to pay for the work journalists produce.”

Should Native Advertising Become a PR Tactic?

native advertising newpaper

Though marketing, advertising, and public relations all play in the same “sandbox,” traditionalists in the world of PR will tell you that the industry doesn’t have much to do with paid placements or marketing pieces. And for the most part, they’re still correct – public relations by definition is about earned media and public perception crafted through “free” coverage. However, thanks to social media and the rise of content marketing, the lines are blurring. With the latest controversial push for native advertising, the lines are closer to disappearing completely.

What is native advertising?

Similar to the term content marketing, the definition of native advertising involves some gray area. Essentially, native advertising is a piece the mimics the form and function of the platform it appears in, such as an article in a magazine or a sponsored post within a user’s Facebook timeline. PR has utilized the “contributed article” in thought leadership programs for some time; the concept is similar, but differs in that native advertising is a paid placement.

Why is it controversial?

Forbes advertising

Check out the small black box – that’s native advertising at work.

Though nine out of 10 PR agencies in the UK believe they are best suited to control their clients’ native advertising pieces, the tool isn’t what PR typically looks like. With a contributed article, the idea is pitched, and editors typically only accept pieces that aren’t blatant sales pushes and add value for their readers. Getting articles placed is often easier when relationships with journalists have been built, and the client has a good public perception.

While most outlets offering native advertising aren’t going to just publish any old thing, it takes away a certain layer of trust for readers. Contributed articles must show value and actually come from a thought leader; native advertising articles can be placed for a certain price. In addition, the FTC set strict guidelines for native advertising and how it must be labeled recently, and most publishers aren’t following the rules. Whether it’s the intention or not, readers discovering an article was a paid placement when the publication wasn’t upfront about it can lead to a feeling of being duped.

In addition, many journalists and editors aren’t a fan. Forbes recently placed one of their native advertising pieces on the front cover, leading to questions about their ethics and integrity.

Should PR play a role?

While native advertising isn’t a typical PR tactic, there are arguments that it should become one. Though the content is paid, PR pros can still control the content and direction for clients. It’s easy enough to just write an article about how your client’s product is the greatest thing since sliced bread and pay to place it as a native ad, but does this really sound like something your target audience would like and get value from?

Pieces should still follow standard contributed article guidelines – no sales push, avoid holding up your product as the be-all, end-all, and think about your audience first. When paying for native advertising, get a clear answer on how it will be labeled. Though it might seem better to hope the publication is sliding under the FTC guidelines, transparency is always good. Articles should be labeled as a native ad, “sponsored content,” or “paid placement.” Honesty is appreciated by your audience.

And don’t discount traditional contributed pieces. There’s still room for these, and there are still editors who prefer this content over native advertising.

Beacon – A New Site to Fund Writers


An interesting find I thought I would pass along – Beacon!

Beacon, the Netflix for journalism, is a site where the public can access articles by personally funding their favorite writers. For $5 a month, readers can log on to and decide what writers and stories get published instead of advertisers. Public relations professionals may be breathing a sigh of relief.

The writers on Beacon are all professionals and have written for publications such as The New York Times, Harpers, TIME, Vice, and The New Yorker. The majority of subscription fees go directly to the writer. When funding a writer, readers get access all of them, including the new writers that come on each month.

This new site comes from tech pros Adrian Sanders and Dmitri Cherniak, along with former Times writer Dan Fletcher. The main premises of Beacon is to be an avenue where journalists are empowered to write about their passions, not the number of page views.

I am fascinated by this model – after years of deadlines with reporters who are conflicted in their stories due to publication expectations or viewership, it is refreshing to see a site that will bring our writers’ true passions to life. I am also curious to see how well the site does with a $5 a month charge. Many readers today cringe over the idea of paying $.99 for content from the Times, will they be willing to pay $5 a month for Beacon? Only time will tell!

A 9/11 Rewind: How We Communicate 12 Years Later

9/11 flag

It was twelve years ago today, and I can still remember the exact moment the first airplane hit the World Trade Center. I spent that entire day glued to the television watching every detail of the day’s events unfold. It was like time stood still. 9/11 affects every American in one way or another, and with that, I think it’s important to reflect on what we have accomplished in the past 12 years. I’m not talking politics, military or foreign relations – for me, I like to reflect on my personal accomplishments and the professional achievements the communications industry has gained. Over the last 12 years, I have been fortunate enough to graduate high school and college, marry an amazing man and build our dream home, have a beautiful son and thrive in a career I am truly passionate about.

12 years, in leaps and bounds

While 2001 seems like it was just yesterday, the communications industry has successfully grown leaps and bounds. The days and months following 9/11, most of the information we received about recovery and rebuilding efforts came directly from media outlets. While we were fortunate enough to have 24 hour coverage, we were forced to only hear the messages the media selected. Fast forward to today, and we have blossomed into a country that thrives on information sharing via blogs, social media and citizen journalism.

In 2001, there were only a handful of blogs in existence and the term “blogging” was far from our vocabulary. Social media sites Facebook and Twitter weren’t even created until several years later. Eyewitness accounts were only offered via an interview with a reporter. With these tools now in existence, our country has the ability to streamline communication in a way that not only allows multiple outlets to share their experience, but also instantaneously.

I think back to the how crucial our country needed to find ways to communicate quickly, accurately and effectively and am grateful to see how far we’ve come. Technology has given individuals a large voice to convey their perspective to the masses. I am grateful to be a part of this generation of communication, and ultimately, have gained an incredible amount of appreciation for life and how lucky I am to live it. I’m sorry for those who had that opportunity taken away 12 years ago.