The Brandividual, “Problematic Neutrality” and the Emerging Editorial Model
Three top chief content officers discuss the new requirements of b-to-b editors.
The theme of this year’s American Business Media Executive Forum was paid content, and vets from every facet of the b-to-b industry were on hand to offer guidance and lessons from the field. Beyond the paywall debates, marketing services and analytics discussions was the business brands are built on: the content. David Berlind, UBM Techweb’s editor-in-chief/CCO, John Gallant, CCO with IDG Enterprise and SourceMedia EVP/CCO David Longobardi shared how they are encouraging and prepping editorial staff for the future.
In the Forum’s keynote presentation, president of The Marketing Democracy Judy Franks reinforced the difference between social networks and social media. Social networks (Twitter, Facebook and the like) are the platforms for social media (a provocative article, cover treatment, etc. that inspires sharing among readers). According to Franks’ categorization, and CCO commentary, social media is what will aid b-to-b companies in the transition to the new content model.
Replacing the rush to break news is getting that news picked up by a largely read source. While aggregators may have initially been seen as predators of original content publishers, this view is shifting. “The most important thing to do for editorial team is to get them is change quantity to quality of content,” says Longobardi. “It’s no longer just ‘I beat The Wall Street Journal’, it’s ‘Huffington Post linked to me’.”
The oft-baffling task of garnering attention in the social network space
can be broken down into a less daunting series of steps. Says Longobardi, “You tweet, use Facebook, then provide analysis. Ask smart questions first; this already garners a certain amount of attention.”
Gallant cites a complete narrative of a news story as a way to gain audience interest, “We take multiple slices on things we know how are coming: a pre- and post story. We ask, ‘How do we time things? How do we capture wave of interest around the event itself?’”
A New Brand: The Journalist
In the social scape, the content creators are being pushed to brand themselves along with the copy they produce. Berlind says, “We need our editors to be ‘brandividuals’. We market them as people you have a trusted relationship with. In this day and age of social media, with all the entities you connect to, the majority are people.”
As brandividuals, b-to-b editors are expected to be as comfortable on camera as they are on a laptop, “We expect each of our editors to operate equally comfortable in text, video, audio and still realms. We have a few people who can really rise to that challenge, and there’s a bright future for them,” says Berlind.
SourceMedia is also on board with the journalistic leap from undetected reporter to visible commentator. Longobardi says, “You have to decide what makes people want to comment. This matters if you are going to publish opinions, things that require a counterargument. We’ve been pushing boundaries in terms of opinion news. We increasingly invite and urge our editors and journalists to express a point of view.”
Opinionated reporting (which can certainly be read as a contradiction) is where these CCOs are placing their bets for the success of their editorial offerings. “We need to take editors, and figure out how to get them to operate them beyond [what can be] problematically neutral. We need to get them to be brandividuals, and able to leverage market knowledge,” says Longobardi.
The dangers of identifying a solidified brand with fluctuating staff (talented editors are often poached for more lucrative opportunities, taking their list of followers with them) was not a pressing concern of the aforementioned CCOs.
“You can’t put all your eggs in one basket; we try to have a network and a core brand handle, so we structure ownership of that. Staff has their own handle, though we encourage them to temporarily embed our brand in their handle. This leads to lots of retweeting. When someone leaves and goes to a semi-aligned content organization, they still often tweet our content,” says Longobardi.