When media become brands and brands become media

Clay Shirky is someone to follow. He has a very clear way of explaining what’s going on. He takes some distance and describes what’s happening, why it’s happening and what the consequences are. If you like to know what social media really means you should definitely read his book Here Comes Everybody.

Last friday he wrote a very interesting post on his blog about the future of newspapers. The post had this great quote in it.

One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.” I think about that conversation a lot these days.

The main idea of his story. There is no need for newspapers, there is need for journalism.

Newspapers are like shoes
I think the most powerful asset newspapers have is engagement. Newspapers are a brand. And some brands you like because those brands extend your personality, others you don’t. It’s personal and changes.

You might not like it, but all journalism is branded, simply because of the medium that tells it. As soon as you are communicating you are “branding”.

Shirky; News is always subsidized: The expense of printing created an environment where Wal-Mart was willing to subsidize the Baghdad bureau. This wasn’t because of any deep link between advertising and reporting, nor was it about any real desire on the part of Wal-Mart to have their marketing budget go to international correspondents. It was just an accident.

Being a brand is difficult for news media, because it touches the concept of objectivity, but branding has value. In Europe newspapers are selling books and DVDs, why? The can only sell this because they are a brand and this brand value is transportable. It’s like stitching a Nike logo on a pair of sneakers or a t-shirt. The logo increases the value of the t-shirt.

Branding doesn’t tell news media to less objective, on the opposite, news media derive value and consumer trust from being objective. It’s the base of their existence. That news media is left, right, “in the middle” or local doesn’t really makes a difference. It tells you something about the focus and focus adds value.

Get connected
Branding is evolving in something more sophisticated and difficult to grasp. Brands want to be your friend, brands want to connect to you, not just for one purchase, for your entire life. Just like newspapers.

Brands relies less on buying ads in media, they are media, and some brands (like Apple) even orchestrate the media.

News media should focus on engagement. Connect readers with the thing that bounds them. The news brand as a place for truth, values, discussion, opinion, investigation, news.

This is where added value is.

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