Brands + Newsrooms: a recipe for narcissism?
The talk behind content marketing is turning into cash as brands start to build the physical infrastructure and hire the talent to go ‘fully operational’ with in-house newsrooms.
I’ve seen at least three brands recently unveil corporate plans for dedicated space of anything up to a couple of thousand square feet, complete with green-screen video studios, sound recording booths, video edit bays, press conference areas, interview booths – and all spare walls upholstered with plasma screens displaying real-time, data-and-analytics-driven content marketing dashboards. And the technology’s the affordable bit.
All newsrooms need warm bodies
All those very specialist chairs will need to be warmed by very specialist bottoms – journalists, community managers, producers, project managers, editors, sound mixers, social media strategists, graphic designers, public relations experts and more.
None of these roles are traditionally considered part of a company’s marketing department, so they’ll be new hires, along with a shift of internal resources in the form of brand and product managers and other marketing co-ordinators, legal, and corporate comms people who will also need to be stationed in these always-on newsrooms.
All newsroom, all the time
Operationally, these plans also lay out rigorous daily schedules, including early morning ‘editorial meetings’, rapid-response content team huddles, mid-afternoon social scan reports, and overnight ‘graveyard shift’ monitoring teams that look for spikes and opportunities in other timezones.
Many of these newsrooms are slated to cover multiple markets (efficiencies of scale), which will stretch the news day even longer and also add in the issue of language and cultural relevance adaptations for the content as well.
Running a newsroom isn’t cheap – until you add up the alternative
As an economic response to the challenge of producing more content more cost-effectively, the in-house newsroom makes sense on paper. Lots of brands have spent the last couple of years adding up the bills they’re getting from various ad agencies, PR houses, design studios, video production shops, and even the new crop of specialist white-label content marketing outfits and have been shocked by the grand total. In many cases, they’re paying for the inefficiency of making a high-concept, production-perfect, risk-minimised production model adapt to a fast-response, relevance-trumps-perfection world of news-based content. So the ops guys have got that part of right.
It’s all very exciting, but what ‘news’ will they be covering?
I’m predicting a lot of these newsroom investments will result in a wave of incredibly tedious brand-centric content. Not because of the way they’re set up, but because of how they’ll be funded.
If they’re paid for with traditional marketing dollars, they are going to be measured by traditional marketing metrics. So the content produced by newsrooms is going to have to demonstrate that it can sell, almost directly, if the newsroom wants to stay in business. Simply put, whoever is paying for the production of the news (the brand) is going to demand that the news be all about them. Get ready for an onslaught of branded content, created by branded newsrooms, talking about the brand (and why & where you should buy it), all the branded time. Insert branded yawn...!
The one way I can see to keep the editorial shackles off these in-house newsrooms, (and, therefore, keeping them relevant to consumers), lies in the clever use of data & analytics to define and justify their role in the marketing mix. And plenty of firms are springing up to offer exactly this kind of data and analytics (KISSmetrics, HubSpot, SimplyCast, Salesforce and others), offering sophisticated metrics that uncover the ‘hidden effectiveness’ of content during all phases of the influence and purchase process.
For marketers that stick with simple ‘likes’ and ‘re-tweets’ as a measure of their content marketing effectiveness, I predict their in-house newsrooms, (one careful owner, very low miles, showroom condition), will end up getting auctioned off for cents on the dollar.
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