Fiona Salmon is Publisher Director at Vibrant Media
If journalists wanted to be in marketing, they’d have gone into PR, advertising or content marketing.
The fact is, many are leaving the profession for such roles – not just because of lay-offs to reduce “operational costs”, the closure of titles or their title going exclusively online.
The increasing adoption of the “ad supported media” model can arouse feelings amongst journalists that the game’s now all about the ads – particularly at online titles.
Publishers are focusing more of their attention on the ad sales team to keep the business commercially viable.
In consequence, some journalists have started to feel undervalued, considered as a cost of business, as simply the vehicle to attract eyeballs for ads, and that too little regard is being paid to the quality of the content that they produce.
A vicious cycle can take hold. As the focus of the media title shifts, feelings of job dissatisfaction can arise.
Tensions between advertising and editorial teams then increase. Journalists leave, impacting the quality of content, thus drawing fewer consumers. Then ad campaigns don’t perform, revenue suffers and the publisher can’t afford to recruit good editorial staff.
The future of the ad-supported media business is then in jeopardy.
Such “soft costs” of going “free” have been largely overlooked by publishers, ad departments and even many editorial teams.
Breaking this cycle needs publishers to understand these issues, but journalists likewise have a role to play.
They need to negotiate with publishers to find ways that enable them to assert their contribution to the media title’s profit and loss account.
That may well mean that journalists need to take a more active interest in the advertising that the media title runs.
Many online editorial teams have already started doing so by consenting to the commercialisation of relevant hyperlinks that appear in their copy.
Journalists include hyperlinks within online articles to improve the editorial by providing access to more relevant information.
When a user moves their mouse over and clicks on relevant hyperlinked keywords, it’s because that user is engaged with the content.
These mouse actions prove to publishers how effective the editorial is.
Rather than dragging the consumer away from the content a journalist’s crafted, hovering over the hyperlink offers the internet user a choice whether to view a relevant video or advert within the page or keep reading the article. If an ad is viewed, the media title gets paid.
It’s editorial that consumers want. That’s the most valuable quality of a media title. Everyone – except consumers, it seems – realises that good editorial has to be paid for.
Yet great quality journalism is only going so far to convey the value of editorial teams to publishers.
As the subscription and pay-per-copy revenue models are on the decline journalists need to assert their importance by getting their publishers to implement ways that show directly how quality editorial contributes to the bottom line.