As the media industry continues its transition to online formats, we're seeing, amid the gloomy closures and layoffs, great creativity in journalism, including tinkering with the business model.
Part of this experimentation, though, means there will be winners and losers. And while the PR industry is certainly doing its best to keep on top of the new landscape that includes a proliferation of online outlets and a continuous shrinkage of printed ones, it shouldn't jump on every available opportunity.
On True/Slant, a 9-month-old venture where journalists are given a free platform to write - not necessarily report - on whatever they choose, marketers are given equal opportunity to air their views. The corporate profiles run alongside regular editorial content and are delineated by simple red text, "Ad Slant." It amounts to an online advertorial, that old leftover of print titles, whereby an advertiser placed an ad that looked more like editorial content on the basis that readers find editorial more persuasive than actual ads.
There's nothing ethically wrong with this - all relationships are disclosed - but it certainly doesn't foster the credible, news source that we will continue placing a premium on as more and more outlets that are less and less accurate and thoughtful emerge. Kudos to True/Slant for recognizing the rise of punditry in our news media and finding a unique way to capitalize on it, but unfortunately the site simply seems like an unfocused Huffington Post. The Ad Slant pages only add to the noise.
Using your corporate blog, corporate Twitter account, Facebook fan page, to post company POVs makes sense, and stakeholders understand the format. They know where to find you, too. So far, none of the three companies using Ad Slant have any followers. I'm not sure if that's because no one's reading the site, no one cares what they say, or maybe it's still too new. In any case, corporate communicators' time is probably better spent getting this information out through, dare I say, more traditional channels like credible Op-Eds and social media. Adding to the noise that is likely to happen during this media transformation won't win you any fans nor ensure your message is understood.
GM told me recently how vital its blog was in explaining its pre- and post-bankruptcy restructuring story. It also outlined the intricacies of such a filing to the shrinking, time-strapped press. "Bank- ruptcy," for example, has a different meaning in Europe than here.
Some might think I'm stuck in the past, but I believe you're better off avoiding some of the newer journalism models that will be cropping up. No one wants to get stuck with a pay-for-play label.
Rose Gordon is the news editor of PRWeek. She can be contacted at email@example.com.