A Manifesto for the Employment of Journalists in the 21st Century

Independent journalism is important, to say the least. Despite writing an article last year that criticises the current ‘solution’ that many media establishments have come up with to their ever-decreasing revenue streams, I firmly believe that in the age of fake news, Wikileaks, and modern media, independent journalism is more important than ever. My original argument still remains, however, the media industry is failing to support sustainable and independent journalism, and a commercially sustainable solution is required.

The Media ‘Industry’ is Dead, Journalists Need New Employers.

In the wake of 2016’s Facebook fake news investigation comes a powerful truth: agents outside of the press now have an equal opportunity to influence the public as strongly as traditional media does. New Matilda, The Australian, The ABC, Coles, Holden, and the Denver Guardian are all on equal ground thanks to Facebook. For those who need a memory refresh, the Denver Guardian was a shell publication used to promote anti-Clinton sentiment on social media with fake news.

Marrying the value that comes from content marketing with the chaos that is currently surrounding the broader media industry gives corporations and social enterprises an incredible opportunity.

What if for-profit companies are socially responsible to the creation of media that aligns with their values and is factually correct?

In other words, what if we view content marketing as a product and hire journalists and content creators as full-time staff?

The Creation of Content: A Corporate Model

The migration of a journalists’ employer to the world of the corporates makes sense for two reasons:

  1. Content Marketing Rivals Advertising: Organic content marketing can be more efficient than advertising when it comes to increasing demand and customer value (we are seeing this first-hand at TINY with some of our social media clients). Creators of good content are desperately needed, and journalists, photographers, editors, videographers, and digital gurus all need to play their part in partnership with advertisers and marketers.
  2. Traditional Media is Struggling: Sadly, reports suggest that the current trajectory of independent media is unsustainable (I have written about this before). On the 20th of November 2016, New Matilda launched a Pozible campaign to fund the launch of a new source of revenue: witty beer. New Matilda has been quick to dispell the possible perceptions that this is a fundraising campaign, too. 
    Writes founding member Chris Graham, “Fact is, New Matilda is a glorious thing, but like all independent media, we struggle along on the sniff of an oily rag. Sad to say, I’m yet to find an ethical, open media model that is sustainable and can pay fair wages to its staff, without racking up ridiculous debt. So while I hope Sparkke starts some important conversations, I also hope it goes on to help fund some important journalism.” 
    New Matilda is building an alternative version of the “journalism as a CSR” model I am arguing for, but they’re proving a point: media as a standalone “industry” is proving to be unsustainable in the 21st century.

Good Content is Corporate Social Responsibility

Feeling uneasy about BP making the next climate change documentary? How is it any different to a mining mogul having a significant amount of shares in a newspaper? Most media will always have an agenda one way or the other; my proposed method is just more transparent about it!

TINY’s client, Vollie, are a social enterprise startup that found a fantastic way of earning the attention of prospective users through creating great content, like our mini doco of Nell the wildlife carer:

Vollie’s value proposition is to empower people to make positive changes to the world through tailored volunteering opportunities. The content we’re creating is just the result of applying a journalistic framework to that agenda. Applying the same framework to companies in other industries isn’t hard, and I can tell you from experience that the ROI is very efficient. As an organisation, you just need to know what you stand for, and the rest will be easy.

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Tom Uhlhorn runs TINY, a Customer Experience Design Firm based out of Melbourne, Australia. TINY specialises in content marketing, branding, new product development, and digital marketing.