Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Explosion of Branded Content

Brendan Margolies

     The most surprising piece of information I found among the articles, particularly the Quartz piece, is the disparity between the number of PR professionals and reporters. I had no idea the discrepancy was so large, but when thinking about the size of certain companies and how PR professionals are required for most corporations, it makes sense. I was also concerned when I saw the differences in wages among the two professions, with journalists averaging $20,000 less than PR pros. It just shows how good journalism continues to be devalued due to the prolific nature of online news and the failure of legacy media to keep up with technology, among other reasons. 
     In an ideal democracy, journalism should be viewed as equally valuable, if not more so, than public relations. Given that some of our founding fathers, i.e. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, held journalism in such high esteem, it's troubling that our society today feels ambivalent toward the media. On the other hand, journalism needs to be more adaptable and responsive to what citizens want and need.
     The biggest convergence of corporations and journalism is being seen in the newest wave of advertising, branded content. The content itself is a combination between advertising and entertainment/information. Big businesses are realizing that no one really wants to watch commercials and are realizing the best way to get their message out there is to partner with professional storytellers(aka journalists and PR pros). One can see examples of this new form of content on sites like Instagram and Facebook among others. Those advertisements are still far from ideal and extremely obvious to the average consumer.
     An ethical concern regarding the new practice would be conflicts of interest between news sites that have branded content on their page and the companies that pay for them. Would it prevent reporters from criticizing certain practices of companies that advertise on their sites? Hopefully this won't be too much of an issue considering the media has juggled a relationship with businesses for a long time.
     Morgan Spurlock, director of "Supersize Me" and "The Greatest Movie Ever Made", recently shifted from destroying brand credibility to building it by becoming one of the leading innovators in branded content
     Spurlock has completely embraced the new form of advertising, even going as far as refusing to include the sales product in the ads he produces. I think he truly understand the mindset of today's generation when it comes to consuming advertising and information as a whole. We want to be told stories we can become invested in, rather that just pushed product in an overt way. While that model will always exist, when it comes to online advertising, Spurlock's technique could be extremely effective. 
     Most of our population has become adept at identifying advertisements and for the large part, do our best to avoid watching them. Whether it clicking the video on Spotify to gain 30 minutes of ad free music or skipping to the end of a YouTube ad, it seems that some of us have started to get advertising fatigue.

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