Since earned media is getting “harder to gain traction in,” PR people need to make “smart branded content recommendations for clients,” Communications Week was told Oct. 21.

Katie CreaserKatie Creaser

Katie Creaser, VP of Affect, New York, said, “PR pros are probably not extending enough into native content or advertising or paid opportunities.”

“Making smart branded content recommendations to clients could be a real asset for us but we need to better understand how it works and the technology behind it,” she told Commweek, which has posted excerpts from the sessions on its website.

“There’s less distinction between traditional journalism and branded content—this is a new way for journalists to sell their expertise,” said Duy Linh Tu, associate professor of professional practice and director, digital media program, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Duy Linh-TuDuy Linh Tu

“Journalists are poor advertisers but they’re good at storytelling and distilling things down to important facts,” he said.

“As journalists, we have to figure out new ways to make money; our use of technology has at times been a knee-jerk reaction to this,” said Lihn Tu.

Should Journalists Worry about $$?

Whether journalists should worry if their stories bring in money or not has been a hot topic lately.

It was considered by a 57-minute New York Daily News panel Sept. 21 that was videotaped and published by the paper and carried by this website.

If readers want “news of puppy dogs” instead of substantive issues, what should a news medium give them? was the question placed to the panel.

Give them whatever they want, said moderator Jay Rosen, NYU journalism professor. “If readers just want puppies then how can you inform them about the community? The readers are the community. They’re the customers. If they don’t want the product, then how can the company continue to make it?”

“The wall has come down between business and editorial,” he said.

Panelist Priya Ganapati, Quartz product designer, said, “I’m talking to editors every day, I’m in all the edit meetings, so I’m part of the conversation. It’s very collaborative and it’s a conversation between different people who understand, ‘I have to know what I’m selling.’”

Branded Will Flood TV

“Native advertising is about to flood the airwaves,” says Business Insider, meaning storylines written around “products the advertisers are trying to sell.”

Native display ad revenues, including native in-feed ads on publisher platforms and social platforms make up 56% of current total U.S. display ad revenues, according to BI. It predicts growth to 74% of such ads by 2021.

Driving the placement of ads in broadcast and print editorial matter is what the Interactive Advertising Bureau says is “a tide of ad blocking.” TV viewers are switching to other channels when ads come on, using the mute button, or fast-forwarding through the ads if they have recorded the program.

Randall Rothenberg, IAB president/CEO, forecast an “increasing flow to premium video, native advertising, branded content and more customized experiences.”

“Consumers are now in control and they are rejecting experiences that don’t meet their desires, adopting ad-blocking software at alarming rates,” he said.

He wondered whether display advertising has a future for brands and will big brand support increasingly flow to premium video, native advertising, branded content, and more customized experiences?”

He also asked: “Can great journalism survive?”

Oliver “Nailed” Plight of Newspapers

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan said Aug. 8 that a 19-minute segment by HBO’s John Oliver Aug. 7 criticizing ads that look like news stories “nailed” what’s happening to newspapers--“shrinking staffs, the abandonment of important beats, the love of click and bait over substance, the deadly loss of ad revenue, the truly bad ideas that have come to the surface out of desperation, the persistent failure to serve the reading public…media’s addiction to content that generates digital traffic, particularly ever-weirder stories about cats.”

She was previously public editor of NYT.

The crumbling wall between the “business” and “editorial” sides of media has helped credibility in media to plummet from 69% in 1974 to 21% last year, according to Gallup.

“Americans with a great/fair amount of trust in media” is a current chart on Quartz showing that it fell from 70% in 2005 among Democrats to 52% currently, and among Republicans, from 53% in 1998 to 12% currently. The average is around 30%.

Quartz is a digital global news medium owned by Atlantic Media Co., publisher of The Atlantic, National Journal, and Government Executive. It has 175 staffers who cover business topics worldwide.

NYT Called Anti-Trump

The NYT’s “dislike of Donald Trump permeates news articles and throws the paper’s ability to provide truthful reporting in doubt,” said a letter-to-the-editor Oct. 22 by Angela Camack, Jackson, N.J. Other Republicans got the same treatment from the paper, she wrote. The flood of editorial opinions into the news columns of the paper has damaged its credibility.

“In Media Company Advertising, Sponsored Content is Becoming King,” said a headline in the July 25 NYT. The paper said publications large and small “have invested in teams to make sponsored content—written stories, videos or podcasts that look and feel like journalistic content—hoping to make up for declines in conventional ads.”

It noted The Atlantic gets three-quarters of its ad revenues from sponsored content. Hearst is “rolling out its native digital ad product to its 84 markets. It says it is buoyed by the success it has had with its “shared spaces” product that lets advertisers inhabit the same area as editorial content. NYT has its “T Brand” of branded “editorial” content.

An O’Dwyer website poll on branded media found 52% of respondents saying it is a “necessary evil,” 29% saying it is “a great PR practice,” and 19% saying it is “unethical.”

Guarnaccia Sees “Battle for Brand Relevancy”

Tiffany Guarnaccia of Kite Hill PR, who founded CommWeek in 2014 to encourage knowledge sharing among ad/PR firms and media, told the final session that “the battle for brand relevancy is only going to intensify into 2017 and beyond. As communicators, we have to lead the brands we represent in finding the right audiences to engage and the right means of reaching those audiences effectively.

“This means being bold and brave, rather than standoff-ish and reserved, and it means embracing new platforms, techniques and opportunities rather than falling back on the approaches and tactics of old."