Brand Newsroom: A New Revenue Stream for Media Outlets

min read

Media outlets are often very strict in following the pillars of ethical journalism. This means they tend to avoid certain approaches which they consider too commercial, PR-driven and marketing-oriented. They worry that adopting such practices would have a toll on their credibility. And while these fears are justified, they can become problematic when supporting their own business.

Not all media outlets can provide for themselves with crowdfunding or by putting their news behind paywalls. Their expenses are often larger than their revenue, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet at the end of each month. As a result, they cannot expand their teams of journalists and producers or cover all the stories they want to, ultimately failing to provide their audiences with exhaustive reporting.

But there is a solution – and the good news is that quite a few media outlets already have all the necessary resources to implement it. By reorganizing their operations, they can set up an outsourced brand newsroom department, which will provide new monetization opportunities and allow them to financially support their primary endeavors to offer high-quality, credible journalism.

Media vs Marketing: An Uncanny Resemblance

The media’s primary role is to safeguard public interest against political and economic wrongdoings and create public awareness. The methods they use to achieve this goal include informing and educating their target audiences – most commonly the general population. Usually, entertainment also plays a role, especially in increasing and strengthening the reach and in retaining followers.

Interestingly, a similar approach can be observed in marketing. And while the main agenda here may be different – i.e. to increase brand awareness, loyalty and recall with the ultimate intention of promoting the sales of their products or services – the methods used are essentially the same. Brands, too, communicate with their followers through informing, educating and entertaining.

Therefore, if we put their agendas and motifs aside, the media and marketing industries are essentially on the same page as far as work methods are concerned. And even when it comes to employee capabilities, the two are not all that different. Namely, both industries need people capable of creating good stories, capturing them on paper or film and presenting them to the public.

The world of marketing has already identified this similarity. This is precisely why marketing agencies and internal marketing departments are increasingly recruiting journalists in their content departments. Their know-how and expertise in investigating, analyzing, and developing captivating stories did not go unnoticed.

And while it may seem that this relationship is one-sided, this is not necessarily the case. Just like marketers have a lot to learn from journalists, so do journalists have a lot to learn from marketers. In the best-case scenario, they can unlock an entirely new revenue stream for their by adopting certain marketing approaches and transforming a part of their newsrooms into so-called brand newsrooms.

An Opportunity for the Media to Cash in on Content Marketing

In the last couple of decades, large companies like American Express, BMW, Lush, Spotify, Under Armour and Red Bull have realized that advertising alone does not cut it anymore. They needed a way to reach those customers who have grown oblivious to ad bombardment on billboards, in radio advertisements, magazine spreads and TV commercials.

These companies do not have corrupt agendas – they simply want to increase their brand awareness. It is a win-win approach that provides brands with an opportunity to build a loyal community and customers with quality content. To produce this quality content, the above companies had to set up their own internal brand newsrooms.

In a nutshell, a brand newsroom is any organization, company or internal department that collects, reviews, creates and publishes original content aimed at informing, educating and entertaining the existing and potential customers of a given brand. The ultimate goal is to increase brand profitability.

Red Bull’s brand newsroom is a perfect example. The energy drink producer and ambassador of extreme sports has a highly efficient brand newsroom department. Their most high-profile campaign was undoubtedly the 2012 Red Bull Stratos Jump, which had millions of people worldwide glued to their TV, computer and smartphone screens as Felix Baumgartner made an unprecedented free fall from the Earth’s stratosphere.

This is the pinnacle and a model of what a good brand newsroom can achieve. The exposure such content marketing provides is unparalleled – which is not to say that the role of advertising is any less important. On the contrary, content marketing and advertising should always work hand in hand, supporting each other to achieve the best outcomes.

But not all companies can afford to establish an internal brand newsroom department. This is where media outlets can enter the picture. By reallocating their people and establishing an outsourced brand newsroom, they can secure their own share of revenue in the multi-billion dollar industry of content marketing.

Journalists in Marketing: A Slippery Slope of Selling Out

But before we get all hyped up about this new opportunity for media outlets – there is a catch. As mentioned before, the media should always abide by the five pillars of ethical journalismtruth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability. Remove any of these pillars, and you compromise the credibility of your newsroom.

Thus, a media outlet that opts to establish its outsourced brand newsroom should be careful about preserving its credibility. This means they should abstain from assigning brand newsroom projects to their reporting journalists. They have two options to go about this problem. Either they can allocate non-journalist content producers to these projects, or the journalists that participate in the brand newsroom should be removed from reporting. Why?

Imagine a company that produces premium leather products. The company wants to position itself on the market to order content marketing services from a brand newsroom. The brand newsroom assigns a journalist to the project to produce the content. Then, a year later, the same company pollutes the environment with toxic waste. The media outlet sends the same journalist to report on the event, and we have a problem – the journalist that produced content for the firm is now reporting on their malpractice. Pretty questionable, right?

So, the bottom line is that a media outlet can establish a brand newsroom spin-off while remaining ethical in their journalistic approach and avoiding public reproach or allegations. This organizational division can be further reinforced with a distinction in branding that clearly sets the media newsroom apart from the brand newsroom – a different name, logo, and website should do the trick.

Setting up a Brand Newsroom: Any Media Outlet Can Do It

Many media outlets already have all the necessary resources to set up a brand newsroom. They have content producers, a filming crew, video editors and all the necessary equipment. In such cases, setting up a brand newsroom should not be too much of a problem as all the required capabilities are already there.

Then there are media outlets that only publish printed newspapers and magazines. These normally do not have filming crews and video editors, meaning they lack the in-house capabilities for setting up a brand newsroom spin-off. But this is not a deal-breaker. While it may demand extra organizing and work, even such newsrooms can establish a brand newsroom.

The first thing they should do is hire additional staff, namely a filming crew, video editors and possibly content producers. I know what you must be thinking right now, “If they are already well over their budget, then there is no way they can afford to hire an entire team of new people.” But this is precisely why setting up a brand newsroom is their best bet ever.

The income that a brand newsroom can provide – even in small teams with just a few people – can by far surpass the costs associated with the people employed or outsourced in a brand newsroom. In other words, a brand newsroom creates profit which can be used to cover the shortage generated by the media outlet.

So, if you have been wondering how to solve the problem of funding in your media outlet, perhaps it is time you took the matters into your own hands. And if you need some extra guidance on setting up a brand newsroom or organizing the work, then we have you covered. You will find all the answers you need in this article.

Jernej Verbič is an expert on journalism, media production, and entrepreneurship in the domains of communication and branding. He has 20 years of experience working as an editor and reporter at RTV Slovenia public broadcaster; biggest commercial television in Slovenia, POP TV and daily Delo, a New York City correspondent for daily Dnevnik; and a project and development manager at the Slovene Association of Journalists. Currently, he is a Managing Partner of the brand newsroom Dobre zgodbe, mostly working as a consultant on newsroom branding, business storytelling, digital media content, and strategy development to various media outlets in the Western Balkans.

Kristijan Jean Radikovič is a seasoned wordsmith with a master’s degree in English and a soft spot for poetry. After a freelance career as a translator, interpreter and proof-reader, he worked as a copywriter for an international crypto exchange. With the experience he had gained, he found his place at the Dobre zgodbe brand newsroom, where he conducts research and writes copy for local and global brands.

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