WASHINGTON, June 7, 2012 — I was feeling ambitious this year so I made three New Year’s resolutions. I aspired to start writing, ride a bike every day and stop making up words that included “swag” in them.
So far 2012 has been great. I started writing for The Agency Post, which led to this column. I have logged in so many miles on my bike that I now have calves and until now I never referred to anything as being “swagnificent.”
Journalism is shifting. I appreciate the platform to share new ideas and my insight. Yet, I’m not a journalist. I run a creative agency, I make a lot of jokes on Twitter and I’m blessed to have a lot of interesting friends.
One of those friends is Emily Eldridge, co-founder of The Agency Post. Her site, an interactive publication for ad, PR and marketing professionals, is the perfect example of where content and engagement are heading.
Below, she answers my questions about the future of journalism and how we will engage with media.
1. What is the future of journalism, original content? What will we be talking about 12 months from now?
We’ve all witnessed the amateurization of “journalism,” but I believe it’s spawned new opportunities. Those opportunities include equal opportunity to create a story, real-time awareness, greater collaboration and discussion among individuals and the evolution of content types.
The working order of journalism, though, is still chaotic. People are no longer forced through traditional news outlets to hear both sides of an issue from an “objective journalist,” which has led to interesting, albeit troubling, trends in both the professional media and general social orders. And, probably of greater frustration to most users, there’s simply too much content to consume.
Over the next twelve months, although it will probably take longer, I believe the broad world of journalism will be working to get organized and optimized. We’ll start listening to user experience experts. We’ll figure out how to optimize content for aggregators that people are growing to rely more and more on. We’ll tweak and embed more video content to meet the engagement demands of users and YouTube performance analytics alike. We’ll figure out how to use mobile effectively.
2. What market need did you recognize with Agency Post? What is the long-term vision?
I am a major proponent of the collaborative evolution of journalism, but I also believe that niche expertise is, probably increasingly, valuable. I attended the Missouri School of Journalism, but actually went into advertising. If any industry was quick to adopt the “everyone can be a journalist” mentality, it was advertising. Countless personal and organizational blogs emerged online, in addition to the industry’s well-known professional pubs like AdAge and BrandWeek.
Our team found two issues with the industry media setup: minimal collaborative effort among parties and unbalanced content types. Our industry has historically worked off a scarcity mentality, which made collaboration inherently hard to swallow. However, I believe that there’s a big difference in sharing your practical insights with other marketing professionals and how any one person or organization applies those thoughts in his or her daily work.
The subject of unbalanced content types is due to medium ownership (as I said, many agencies operate their own blogs) and what has historically been regarded as news. To date, the majority of industry coverage relates to campaigns launching, failing or succeeding, individual people joining or leaving organizations, coverage of regional industry events and product launches. This is all important - and well covered.
Every post we publish should share a unique insight or idea that should affect our user’s strategic approach to his or her job as a marketer. That’s why we won’t publish any news on individual campaigns unless it is used as support for a larger principle that is applicable to the community.
Our ongoing mission is to continue to build a global communications-specific community focused on sharing and discussing insights that will benefit our work, whether that’s at Ogilvy in New York City, INK Brand Agency in Lagos, Nigeria, or as an independent CG generalist in Brasov, Romania. We hope to find ways to collaborate with everyone, including other industry publications.
3. What is the biggest challenge ahead for Agency Post as it grows?
There is one we can control and one we can only influence. The first is building and maintaining a differentiated identity that attracts industry professionals from across the globe. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to work towards that, Jeff.
The second is industry participation. We designed our website to be adaptive, welcoming of all types of contributions and comments. However, marketers work long hours as it is. It’s hard to commit to visiting our site regularly, let alone actively contributing to its community. We are going to continually work to make The Agency Post as accessible and valuable to industry professionals as possible. It will always be a challenge to maintain momentum - but we’re up for it.
4. Online search may be trending away from large publications and toward writers with large followings. Is that a good idea? How will that change your approach?
As discussed above, I think there are great opportunities for “amateur journalism,” as industry professionals so lovingly label it, but popularity doesn’t necessarily imply expertise and it definitely does imply subjectivity. I think search engines are trying to figure out how to deal with the amount of content, just like users, and we will see many more “Google updates” to that end.
The real questions are how individual users will become self-aware enough to diversify their content intake and how many individual-focused media outlets each user will visit. A person can only consume so much and they need ways to do that in which they get balanced perspectives in a timely fashion.
As for The Agency Post, I like to think that we’ve positioned ourselves in a way that emphasizes particular experts (some with popularity and others who should be popular) and aggregates those quality contributions in one content outlet.
5. How can agencies use original written content to drive business? Are there any examples of agencies who do it best?
Well, I have three opinions on this:
Constantly putting content out to look active and important is not valuable. If I were a prospective client, I would quickly begin questioning what percentage of my invoice is going to cover your blog updates. However, high quality, well-researched expert content strategically disseminated makes you look like an authority - and yes, you can attract interest that way, provided others find it as valuable as you do.
Second, physical presence can have a BIG impact, which I learned from Nacho Rufin of +Associates in Barcelona. There’s no feeling of weight with a website section full of your past work, but when you can hand a prospective client thick, tangible reasons why you know what you’re talking about, there seem to be far less questions.
And finally, I’m biased because I run a third party venue, but, “Have you read my book?” Eye roll. “Have you read my blog?” Eye roll. Do other people find your perspective valuable in a third party venue? Start there and then maybe I’ll read your book!
Jeff Barrett is a recognized leader in public relations, experiential marketing and social media. Co-Founder of Status Creative, 2011 PRNewswire Award Winner for “Best Use of Video In Social Media” and record holder for Most Strikeouts in Tee-Ball.
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