Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Branded Journalism: It's already happening

Dave Chase has a great post on Reflections of a Newsosaur about the problems in online ad sales. He's right that news organizations need to make basic changes to their ad sales channels in order to maintain revenue in the short term. Boston.com admitted as much during the launch meeting for Boston.com/Newton in which the sales executive noted that many advertisers complained that ads on Boston.com were too high. The solution for Boston.com was to focus on a smaller geographical area in order to offer cheaper and more targeted advertising opportunities.

But as I mentioned, I still think the ad model is irrevocablly broken and the while Chase offers a short term solution, something else needs to happen over the long term.

I believe that long term news and information will be supported directly by brands. That is, thsoe brands will hire news people to work independently and they will start to offer information. While to the average consumer this information will appear to be the same as before, there will be a subtle bit of branding going on.

When I suggest this to friends the response is one of horror. The idea that a Coke could be supplying entertainment news sends a shudder through their system, leading them to use terms like "icky."

Of course, this move will happen slowly and will have to be handled carefully, but it's already going on.

Tonight while doing the dishes I turned on the MLB Channel to hear some Hot Stove chatter. The MLB Channel is, of course, owned by the Major League Baseball brand and there to promote MLB teams. Both the NFL and NHL have similar television networks, all look like copies of ESPN, often with former ESPN anchors and reporters doing the work, but focused just on one sport.

Sure, there is an advertising play here, but advertising is just one of the revenue opportunities, the rest are about attracting viewers to promote the MLB brand and that of its associated teams. This leads to other licensing opportunities and sales of MLB branded materials.

The "news" is the loss leader.

No comments: