The Rise of Brand Journalism

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There are few commercial communication concepts that had a rise as spectacular and fast as brand journalism. Brands’ journalistic activities were usually considered under the concept of content marketing and are also sometimes described with terms like custom content, content publishing or corporate journalism. Although corporate journalism is an old practice, its development in digital environments has elevated it to a new dimension. Today, as a matter of fact, there are few large corporations or brands that resist the urge to start initiatives in the field: brand journalism seems like a modern marketing imperative. Considering the relevance that has achieved, this chapter tries to make clearer brand journalism’s conceptual nature. First, it explains the different factors that contributed to its rise. Then, it analyzes its different forms along with some keys for its use by corporations. Finally, brands’ journalism effects in terms of audience engagement, and from the point of view of its contribution to the tension between information and misinformation in markets, are evaluated and future developments are assessed.
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Ángel Arrese and Francisco J. Pérez-Latre
2.4 The Rise of Brand Journalism
Abstract: There are few commercial communication concepts that have had a
rise as spectacular and fast as brand journalism. Brandsjournalistic activities
were usually considered under the category of content marketing and are also
sometimes described using terms such as custom content, content publishing
or corporate journalism. Although corporate journalism is an old practice, its
development in digital environments has elevated it to a new dimension. Today,
as a matter of fact, there are few large corporations or brands that resist the urge
to start initiatives in the eld: brand journalism seems like a modern marketing
This chapter tries to clarify the conceptual nature of brand journalism, given
its growing importance. First, it explains the dierent factors that contributed
to its rise. Then it analyzes its various forms along with some keys to its use
by corporations. Finally, the eects of brand journalism in terms of audience
engagement, and its contribution to the tension between information and mis-
information in markets, are evaluated and future developments assessed.
There are few commercial communication concepts that have risen as spectacu-
larly and fast as brand journalism. Brandsjournalistic activities are usually con-
sidered under the umbrella concept of content marketing –“the idea that all
brands, in order to attract and retain customers, need to think and act like
media companies(Pulizzi 2012, p. 116) or like publishers (Rogers 2016) , and
are also sometimes described in terms like custom content, content publishing
or corporate journalism. Since 2004, when Larry Light, then McDonalds CMO,
coined the term, these activities have multiplied (Bull 2013). Although corporate
journalism is an old practice publications such as The Furrow or The Ford
Times are often mentioned as relevant precedents
its development in digital
environments has elevated it to a new dimension (see, among others, Barrett
2012; DVorkin 2014; Kent 2012; Mallet et al. 2013; Salerno 2013; Malthouse
2014). Today, as a matter of fact, there are few large corporations or brands that
resist the urge to start new initiatives in the eld. As Light (2014b) says, brand
journalism is a modern marketing imperative.
DOI 10.1515/9783110416794-008, © 2017 Ángel Arrese, Francisco J. Pérez-Latre, published by
De Gruyter.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.
1The Ford Times published by the Ford Motor Company and The Furrow by the Deere & Co.
joined many other long-running company magazines introduced since the mid-1800s (Riley
1992; Swenson 2012).
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Besides McDonalds pioneering activities, there are currently a good number
of brand journalism initiatives that show enough know-how and experience to
be considered models of good practice. Red Bull has created an entire media
division following the logic of brand journalism; Coca-ColasJourney is an online
magazine that gives access to the brands world in the online universe; there
are also specialized media like AdobesCMO, Credit SuissesThe Financialist or
General ElectricsGE Reports. As with content marketing in general, there seems
to be no limit to the variety of brand journalisms forms (see, among others,
Brito 2012; Brown 2014; Lazauskas 2014b; Leitus 2014; Mann 2014; Sinclair 2014;
Shapiro 2014; Holt 2016). By 2013, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) under-
lined in a very diverse sample of more than fty U.S. companies that 86% of
business-to-consumer and 93% of business-to-business rms were developing
content marketing activities of some kind (Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB)
This chapter, in considering the relevance that brand journalism has achieved,
tries to make its nature clearer from a conceptual standpoint. The various factors
that contributed to its development are later explained. Its various forms are
then analyzed along with some indications of its use by corporations. Finally,
the eects of brand journalism will be evaluated and we will share our thoughts
concerning the future development of this activity.
1 Brand Journalism: Concept and Nature
A clear consensus on the denition of brand journalism has not yet been
reached. However, there is a broad consensus on the activities that can be
described as such. Although sometimes there can be a degree of confusion with
other forms of content marketing especially with native advertising actions
what denes brand journalism is the management and design of brand con-
tents from a journalistic perspective, imitating the best practices of the news
Andy Bull, who wrote one of the rst handbooks on the topic, emphasized
that brand journalism is a response to the fact that any organization can now
use journalistic techniques to tell its story directly to the public (Bull 2013).
Larry Light, the termsfather, points out the fact that brand journalism is
about communicating a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, complex set of brand
messages in an integrated manner. There is an editorial policy, a brand frame-
work of brand-dening non-negotiableswithin which marketing teams have
the responsibility to be locally relevant, and the exibility to address individual
dierences (Light 2014a). Like regular journalism, he comments, brand journalisms
122 Ángel Arrese and Francisco J. Pérez-Latre
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goal is to inform, entertain and persuade by collecting and communicating
news, events and happenings (Light, cited in Swenson 2012). DVorkin, a prac-
titioner who from his management position in Forbes magazine has often
advocated the development of content marketing activities, conceives brand
journalism as brands using the tools of digital publishing and social media to
speak directly to consumers(DVorkin 2012, p. 10).
A good number of communication consultants and content companies have
developed brand journalism units that are specially committed to a specicway
of understanding the initiative. For Dawson Ferguson (2012), for example, brand
journalism is using the credibility and inuence of news to tell a corporate
story in order to achieve competitive dierentiation(2012, p. 1); for Media-
Source (2013) brand journalism utilizes journalistic techniques to tell a story
created for targeted audiences. The less branding applied to the content, the
more the content ts the criteria for strong brand journalism(2013, p. 5); Lewis
PR (2014) describes it like this: Its a company investing in content and becom-
ing a provider of news. It is more, much more, than a series of press releases
and product launches. Brand journalism is a serious attempt to share infor-
mation and comment about an industry or sector(2014, p. 7). Finally, for the
Spanish communication consultants Llorente and Cuenca, brand journalism
uses the newscredibility and inuence (and its format) so that brands and
corporations dierentiate its oer in the market. With brand journalism, brands
are introduced into the lives of potential audiences with issues that are familiar
to them: they aspire to be the newspaper, TV channel, website or radio station
that their clients follow(Tascón, Pino 2014, p. 10).
The use of tools, techniques and journalistic formats for contents produced
for media owned by brands or corporations seem to be essential notes of brand
journalism. Besides the technical dimension, brand journalism equal in this
sense to corporate journalism applies traditional journalistic principles to
organizational communication, in order to achieve alignment and action behind
the organizations purpose, vision, values, strategies, operating principles, and
priorities(Kounalakis et al. 1999, p. 230). It also has a common goal of achieving
credibility, inuence and positive engagement by participation in the ow of
information and mediated social conversations, especially in digital environ-
ments, with contents that are clearly dierentiated from advertising contents,
PR, or those of content marketing. The nature of the kind of activity that is
developed is more controversial.
In general, the idea that those activities can really be considered to be
journalism has not been easily accepted, especially among journalists them-
selves. Along these lines, Ken Doctor, a media market analyst and commentator
says bluntly: Call it what you want, but brand journalism isntjournalism. Its
The Rise of Brand Journalism 123
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public relations, customer connection, engagement whatever you want to call
it on the new steroidal Intel chips. And it can produce good stuthats useful
to us as buyers of goods and services. But its not journalism(Doctor 2007).
This type of distinction is usual when brand journalism is analyzed as a
phenomenon, even when there is a recognition of the diculties in dening
the nature of dierent communication activities even those of the news media
themselves (Barciela 2013; Edgeclie-Johnson 2014; Farhi 2013; Filloux 2014;
Llyod 2015; Meleard 2015; Meyer 2014; Ostriko2013). Some specialists in
marketing contents have elaborated on the true nature of these activities; Con-
tently for example, a New York rm specializing in the management of content
produced for freelancers to serve brands (Carr 2013, pp. B1) distinguishes brand
journalism –“A mythical discipline that cannot and should not exist within
the space-time continuum of our media universe. While brand publishing pro-
vides information and entertainment and should hold itself to a standard of
ethics, journalism must be independent”–from brand publishing –“The
practice of a brand telling stories about the things it cares about, its brand, and
its brands products in a way thats genuinely engaging and not promotional)
(Lazauskas 2014a).
The debate about the journalisticnature of these brand communication
activities, and about how they are perceived by audiences, could be framed in
the more general discussion about the tensions between information and dis-
information processes that aect the functioning of markets and society. This is
especially relevant given the diculty of measuring newsworthiness and the
credibility of the news and their sources in social media environments, and the
need for authenticity, credibility and transparency of information to ensure that
journalistic ethics are upheld (Hasnat 2014; Karlova, Fisher 2013).
In conclusion, brand journalism can be considered as a series of content
marketing activities produced by brands and corporations that share some
characteristics: content with value, newsworthiness and interest for them and
their audiences; distributed by their own media; and using journalistic work
processes, tools, principles and formats. Their goal is to achieve authority and
inuence in markets and society and to strengthen their relationships with
dierent clients and stakeholders.
The following matrix could serve to visualize and compare dierent modalities
of content marketing (and other activities of brandscommunication mix), along
two main aspects: the emphasis on informative, persuasive or entertainment
formats and genres; and key media strategy for content publishing (paid media,
earned media, owned media). Of course, the line between them is not clear-cut,
and many hybrid formats are possible, but this conceptual matrix can help to
124 Ángel Arrese and Francisco J. Pérez-Latre
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put brand journalism practices into the context of other marketing communica-
tion activities.
Table 1: The Content Marketing Matrix
Informative Persuasive Entertainment
Paid media Native advertising Advertising Product placement
Earned media Publicity Marketing &
Public Relations
Branded events
& entertainment
Owned media Brand journalism Corporate publishing Branded entertainment
2 The Development of Brand Journalism
As noted before, brand journalism has a number of famous precedents in the
history of corporations, brands, and their communication, from house-organs to
the many initiatives promoted by corporate journalism. However, its new twenty-
rst century dimension, with its variety of forms, has been a consequence of the
unique set of circumstances that surround brand marketing management and
the development of the world of journalism.
The technological revolution, especially of communication and information
technology, has transformed both marketing and journalism. On one side, from
a marketing standpoint, technologies have made brands and corporations more
visible in the marketplace and transformed their relationships with their clients
and society at large. At the same time, they have had to face new challenges, as
more complex communication environments make relevance and dierentiation
ever more dicult to achieve. On the other hand, technologies have been truly
disruptive for the creation and distribution of journalism, leading to a crisis of
journalistic identity that aects the profession itself, its companies and business
models (Blumler 2010).
The management of brand communication was traditionally supported by
advertising and public relations. Today it requires new tools to balance and
overcome the growing shortcomings of conventional activities in digital environ-
ments (Scopelliti 2014). The battle for attention and audience engagement is
made more dicult by threats like banner blindness (a growing online advertis-
ing phenomenon); audience fragmentation, and a new active, participative and
individualistic attitude by the public (Light 2014a); the amount of noise generated
in an information society ooded by content with diverse quality and sources; the
need to participate in conversations and news ows about dierent topics in
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the digital universe, especially social networks (Light 2014b); and the growing
complexity of the integration of brand messages in new formats and vehicles
with enough return of investment. Brand journalism or newsroom mentality
in companies (Zuk 2012; Winkleman 2015b) tries to be a way to confront those
challenges by the creation of relevant brand contents of outstanding value
that can attract audiences and attention with a journalistic media content logic.
That logic would also t the idea of youtility(Baer 2013): the provision of
contents among other things that are of help to the public and customers
instead of being simply an excuse to sell them products.
Brand journalism is also well suited to the way of participation in public life
that is expected from brands and companies in the so-called age of trans-
parency(Tapscott, Ticoll 2003). If the contribution of news media to transparency
is based on their capacity to produce relevant, objective and independent news,
the contribution of brand journalism is the quality, truth and appropriateness of
brand stories (Tascón, Pino 2014). As a matter of fact, Lyons says that brand
journalism is meaningful, quality storytelling(Lyons 2013, p. 11). In this sense,
brand journalism turns itself an essential tool to build a transparent communi-
cative organization(Taiminen et al. 2015).
Finally, many companies have decided to invest in brand journalism after
considering the singularity of twenty-rst century consumers, especially in the
digital domain. Such publics tend to take their own decisions about how to
access relevant brand information, how to interact with it and what kind of
authority should be attached to dierent content sources. Moreover, consumers
are increasingly sharing their knowledge and experience with their social environ-
ment (Bruhn et al. 2012; Hermida et al. 2012). Such behavior produces increas-
ing opportunities to manage direct contact with brands like those of brand
journalism that do not need intermediaries like public relations rms, adver-
tising agencies or other media companies as they did before.
From a strategic perspective, brands aspire to maintain their relevance
through new ways of communicating with the audiences. But the troublesome
situation of journalism in the complex digital environment is another trend to
consider. This is not the place to go deeper into its technological, economic and
professional causes, which have already been analyzed elsewhere (see, among
others, Almiron 2010; Levy, Nielsen 2010; Franklin 2016; Russell 2011). But
some of the consequences are worth mentioning in order to understand the rise
of brand journalism.
Recently a number of new versions of journalismhave developed as a
consequence of how easy it could be for anybody to act as a journalist (citizen
journalism, robot journalism, link journalism, networked journalism, etc.). The
126 Ángel Arrese and Francisco J. Pérez-Latre
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words every company is a media company, popularized by Tom Forenski
(2012), a former Financial Times journalist, only has sense with the dilution of
journalism as an organized professional activity (Lobe 2013; Hamann 2015).
The crisis of news media has led many journalists perhaps more out of
need and disappointment than conviction to consider working as news profes-
sionals in companies or in newsrooms specializing in brand journalism as an
increasingly interesting option. The newsroom projects established in rms like
Coca Cola, General Electric, IBM, Intel and Microsoft to mention just some of
the best-known examples are not only staed with journalists. Some of them
are led by professionals with prestige and experience in some of the best
print publishers: GE ReportsTomas Kellner (in Forbes)orIBMs Steve Hamm
(in Business Week) are two good examples.
Finally, the nancial crisis of news media companies and their poor growth
prospects have also encourage some of them to create business units that focus
on the production of brand journalism content (Burke 2013; McDermott 2013).
Such a decision is usually part of a new context in the business relationship
between clients and media. Both are increasingly open to exploring new avenues
of mutually protable collaboration around new branded content formats such as
native advertising (Burke 2014). A case in point is Buzzfeed, with its team of more
than 30 ad. creatives, journalists and artists who work closely with advertisers
and their agencies to create the most shareablestories.
This intersection between branding and journalism has resulted in a variety
of models to develop brand journalism initiatives. All of them share a basic
concept: to move from brand-centered ways to communicate about a brand (its
values, ideals or benets) to an issue-centered approach to brand communica-
tion, where brands propose topics that provoke discussion, participation and
engagement with audiences.
3 Brand Journalism Practices
The distinction between paid media, earned media and owned media is funda-
mental to understanding dierent brand journalism formats. It also allows their
dierentiation from other actions that manage visibility with editorial and
journalistic tools (for example, advertorials, sponsored content and native
advertising). Paid media is media you pay for, like traditional ads, Google
AdWords or other types of search or display advertising; earned media is when
content receives recognition and a following outside of traditional paid adver-
tising, through communication channels such as social media and word of
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mouth, or traditional publicity (see chapter 4.2 on the eect of word-of-mouth in
e-marketing in this volume); nally, owned media is the media activity related to
a company or brand that is generated by the company or its agents in channels
it controls (from company websites to blogs, Facebook brand pages or Twitter
accounts). Of course, there can be activities or initiatives that integrate elements
of the three perspectives, but the distinction seems clear enough.
In its current stage of development, brand journalism follows the logic of
owned media in the sense that brands are creating communication media with
content produced according to criteria, principles and processes that resemble
the journalistic. Such media are trying to capture the interests of their com-
panies and stakeholders with their contents, and also try to participate in the
ow of information about the topics that t their editorial perspectives. In some
cases, those media use several distribution windows to increase their reach:
Adobes CMO (, for example, besides its own portal is made
accessible as sponsored content in the Wall Street Journals section with the
same name ( From this point of view, the
logic of brand journalism activities diers from the approach of more general
content marketing initiatives, which are based on the reach advantages of
earned media (Du Plessis 2015).
From a content production perspective, there are many options to manage a
regular ow of media content for brands, but there are three main models that
can also be combined: creating in-house newsrooms, commissioning contents to
external specialists, and aggregating and curating syndicated contents. The rst
option requires a great commitment with this activity: it implies a strong invest-
ment in material and human resources. Many companies that have been quoted
in this chapter have created newsrooms that are integrated with all the content
marketing activities (for example, Coca Cola, GE, IBM, Intel, Adobe, Microsoft y
Verizon). The second option is supported by the fact that a number of news
media (including great brands like Time,New York Times,The Economist or The
Guardian, to mention some well-known examples), and advertising & PR agencies
(Publicis, 360i, Omnicom, Hill & Knowlton, among others) have started to build
newsrooms and content units to produce news and reports and manage other
brand journalism activities related to content created by their clients. This model
follows the more traditional lines of contract publishingthat was used for
brand magazines (Dyson 2007). Finally, brand media can also be fed through
third-party content, managed directly, or with the support of the new companies
like NewsCred, Contently, Ultramedia or Rosetta, that specialize in online content
management from creation to diusion.
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There is another way to classify and distinguish brand journalism initiatives.
It is related to the idea of editorial orientation and the goal of communication of
a brands contents. Along those lines, Lyons (2013) sees four models: brand
awareness (publishing stories about your company, as in GE and IBM); industry
news (publishing stories about your industry, creating coverage that supple-
ments the work of mainstream media, as in Intel and Microsoft); create and
sponsor content (establishing your company as a thought leader in a eld, as
in Adobes CMO); and lead generation (using content as a way to generate leads
that can be converted into customers, as in HubSpots case). These models,
to some extent, are well-suited to the dierent types of audiences that often
dominate the ways to dene brandsmedia reach: employees and other internal
stakeholders; clients and potential clients; specialized audiences (media, experts,
etc.); society as a whole. It is common that branded media have one of these four
basic types as their model, with a key audience as the core, but without losing
the goal of making the basic types compatible.
No matter what the focus adopted, brand journalism practice works on
the assumption that journalistic contents and processes should be emulated.
Hubspot, for example, underlines best practices like: be transparent; dont write
art copy; tell the truth; have an opinion/point of view; admit mistakes; get
interesting people to contribute; be promiscuous (Lyons 2013). Contently, in its
Code of Ethics, submits to these principles: adhere to journalisms core values
of honesty, integrity, accountability, and responsibility; credit all sources of
content and ideas; ensure that the reader/viewer understands the source, sponsor,
and intent of the content; fulll promises made to contributors and sources in
the course of reporting; disclose all potential conicts of interest (Snow 2016).
On its part, a leading specialist in the eld, Content Marketing Institutes (CMI)
Mike Murray considers these ideas as the key to eective brand journalism:
learn/apply how journalism works; use brand journalism to be relevant to your
customers; make sure journalists can recognize the core formula of your com-
pany; help people be better customers; educate rst; measure your eorts;
make brand journalism a part of your communication strategy (Murray 2013).
CMI highlights newsroom practices that can help that kind of eectiveness:
operate like a newsroom; have editorial meetings every day (week); go out
in the world, do reporting; obsessively follow the news; work quickly, have a
twitter metabolism(Miller 2013).
The expression more journalism, less brandingis an apt summary of
many of the ideas mentioned before, although every brand has its own way to
make it real. Of course, the specic companys brand journalism model depends
on the goals and results that have been forecast: its evaluation is another crucial
aspect that should be considered.
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4Eects and Results
There is not enough research to assess the impact and reception of the brands
journalistic content in audiences. However, we can explore some evidence
about the reactions provoked by this content related to the more conventionally
journalistic, following the lines of some isolated works that have been written
around the topic. Van Reijmersdal et al. (2010) looked at whether the balance
or imbalance between commercial and editorial content was aecting the way
publications were perceived by the readers of client magazines like Kraft Foods
Food & Family or Home DepotsStyle Ideas. Their analysis conrmed what
should be expected after more generic studies into content credibility and the
persuasion process: the more the commercial orientation of a publication, the
less was the credibility perceived by readers and the more persuasive intent
was perceived by magazine readers.
Cole II and Greer (2013) linked those ndings to brand journalism and
researched the eect of commercial framesand editorial framesfor the per-
ception of the contents of two hypothetical client magazines in the same product
category. They reached the conclusion that the editorial frame improved the
perception of message credibility and positive attitudes towards the brands that
were mentioned. The study also showed that identifying corporate sources of
content did not diminish message credibility the opposite was more likely
unless the commercial frameand corporate sources were united, which was
especially damaging to credibility. Finally, those attitudes and evaluations were
related to readersinvolvement with the product category. According to the
study, product involvement plays a signicant role in explaining variation in
all attitudes examined. Involvement also produces an interesting interactive
eect when examined in light of the source. For low-involved consumers, cor-
porate sources led to the highest credibility ratings; for medium involvement
consumers, peer sources made content seem most credible. High involvement
participants rated content from both sources as highly credible(Cole, Greer
2013, p. 683).
Finally, Baetzgen and Tropp (2015) reach similar conclusions when studying
the keys to success of brand-owned media. According to them, the success
depends on a complex interrelation of factors, but content-centric factors such
as content quality and the non-advertising character of brand-owned media are
most important for creating relevant content and for achieving media success in
terms of reach and frequency(Baetzgen, Tropp 2015, p. 135).
It seems that these conclusions justify brandsgrowing interest in brand
journalism with the above mentioned philosophy of more journalism, less
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branding. But of course, the goals of improving credibility and brandsdesire
to be perceived as institutions that oer insights that add value to customers
lives(Cole, Greer 2013, p. 684), can only be managed through measures of
trac, reach, interactivity and circulation of a brands media, in the same way
that those parameters assess the impact of communication media and other
marketing actions in general.
The metrics of brand journalism should be proxies for relationship-building,
not vanity stats of page views (NewsCred 2015). The sequence reach engage-
ment conversions gives shape to the basic structure of the measures that
are typically used to evaluate content marketing eects, as Figure 1 indicates.
Excluding the last conversion metrics (around lead generation), which are not
necessarily included in most brands media basic goals, the rest apply soundly
to brand journalisms logic.
Beyond the evolution of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and their possible
relation to brand business indicators, the daily life of brand journalism is full of
events and situations that demand special initiatives that are dicult to evaluate
in the short term. There are two examples that could be considered paradigmatic:
brand journalism around the launch of new products or projects, and the role of
brand media in crisis situations or around problems generated by negative media
As for the rst situations, MediaSource explains in some detail how one of
its clients, Ohio States University Wexner Medical Center, took advantage of a
new project to experiment with Google glasses(The Google Glass Project) to
foster its visibility in markets and society.The total project achieved an audience
topping 320 million across company-owned and news media channels with an
advertising value exceeding $1.1 million. All brand journalism content was
shared via company-owned social media channels, including more than 73,000
YouTube plays, totaling 135,867 minutes of playing time which is more than 94
days of continuous play. The estimated Twitter audience alone was 1.7 million
people. The content was also prominently featured on the company intranet,
reaching key internal stakeholders and inuencers (MediaSource 2013).
Regarding crisis situations, there have been some interesting recent cases
that show opportunities to react that are facilitated by brand journalism.
Edgeclie-Johnson (2015) has written in the Financial Times about the ways in
which companies like Amazon or Theranos have responded to negative coverage
at the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, respectively, publishing long
replies in neutralcontent platforms like Medium; or about how the Chinese
company Alibaba, after a Barronsstory that suggested that its stock value could
fall by 50%, answered with a 2,000 word letter to the publisher in Alizila, the
news site of their own company. Those responsible for Alibabas letter explained
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the decision: We are such a high-prole company that investors, analysts,
media and other key inuencers will read every single word very closely.
As the Financial Timesarticle states, companies that dont like the headlines
journalists write are realizing that they can write their own(Edgeclie-Johnson
2015). Vara (2015) elaborates on the same idea: Not long ago, companies that
felt they had been wronged by a news outlet could do little in response, besides
requesting a correction, penning a letter to the editor, or, in extreme cases,
taking out an ad. Now they can present their version directly to readers on
their own Web sites or on platforms like Medium, Twitter, and Facebook.
In both day-to-day business and special occasions, brand journalism allows
companies the opportunity to be more transparent, reach markets with a fresh
approach to communication, and publish the right message to the right audience
at the right time. In the nal analysis, it facilitates a medium and long-term goal:
Table 2: Content Marketing and Brand Journalism Metrics and KPIs
Metrics What do we measure? KPI Is our content building our business?
Subscriber / audience size
Share of voice
Audience penetration across org
Is our content being seen?
How large is our audience?
Whats our share of voice in a market/channel?
Is engagement growing across the workow chain of a
single organization?
Time on site
Page views
Return visits
Social sharing and interactions
How much time are people spending with our brand?
Are people engaging with our brand & content?
Where and how often are people engaging with our
Brand lift
Perception / attitudinal change
Behavioral conversions
Lead generation
Sales lift
Are we creating awareness? Is our message memorable?
Are we changing perceptions?
Are people discovering and understanding our product &
service oering?
Are we driving quality leads?
Are we driving overall sales?
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improving the credibility, authority and engagement of brands, in the environ-
ment of intense noise in which increasingly wired and cynical consumers live.
However, because of the novelty of these practices, more time will be needed to
really assess the degree in which those goals are achieved.
5 Epilogue
Brand journalism is either a great idea or a silly conceit, depending on our pre-
paredness to embrace what really lies behind those two simple words(Edwards
2013). This quote illustrates well the challenges of a brand journalism strategy,
precisely because of the diculty of achieving the right balance between
journalistic frames(distinctive of brand journalism) and commercial frames
(innate to brandspublishing activities). As a matter of fact, the meeting of those
two simple words”–certainly an oxymoron (Sorofman 2013) creates a
dangerous misunderstanding of the extent to which the audience could be dis-
oriented, and conrms the fuzzy borders that already exist between journalism
and many other communication activities (Holtz 2011; Yang 2015; Winkleman
2015a). From this point of view, it would probably be interesting to challenge
the denomination of this set of brand editorial activities through the use of new
concepts such as brand publishing,brand storytellingor editorial commu-
nicationsthat have already been used as equivalent expressions (Foremski
2015). Such terms could avoid the suspicion that always accompanies the
Faustian Pactbetween commercial and journalistic activities, to use the The
Wall Street Journalseditors words (quoted by Pompeo 2013). A pact that in the
case of native advertising, for example, casts professional and legal doubts
(Levi 2015).
The debate over terms is not the only, or the more relevant, debate around
brand journalism. It is an activity still in its infancy, but there are already other
issues such as its scale. Although the majority of brand media started on a
reduced scale with exceptions like Coca ColasJourney or AdobesCMO with
newsrooms staed with more than ten people the optimal size of the team, or
the volume of content that are best suited to the goals of these projects remain
to be seen. On the one hand, the need to prioritize content quality over quantity
seems clear; on the other, it is a fact that the digital landscape is so cluttered
that there is a need to accumulate audiences using a variety of messages,
as the media that ght the battles for visibility are showing (Hungton Post,
Buzzfeed,Vox Media, etc.). The temptation to grow and improve KPIs with this
second approach is strong and can become a medium-term problem. As Fishkin
(2014) explains, mentioning content marketings extraordinary growth: Content
The Rise of Brand Journalism 133
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is powerful. It helps websites and companies earn trac, earn amplication
through social media, build trust with an audience, all at a cost far lower than
traditional or online paid marketing channels. But, sometime in the next few
years, Im worried that it may become a more challenging, more risky, and less
dividend-paying investment. The problem is (or will be) content fatigue. And
weve no one to blame but ourselves.
The integration of journalistic brand activities with the existing content
marketing initiatives, especially with native advertisingor branded contentis
another interesting topic (Basney 2014; Matteo, Zotto 2015). If brand journalism
content aspires to take advantage of its unique journalistic/editorial frame,it
should distinguish itself clearly from native advertisingor branded content
messages, whose nature is almost the opposite commercial paid content with
the editorial appearance of the media that published it. But at the same time, it
also seems apparent that brands are bound to coordinate and integrate their
content marketing actions, taking advantages of the synergies and economics
derived from well-orchestrated plans. Managing both goals is not simple and
might generate a diverse set of dysfunctions that aect the credibility of content
(Smith 2015).
A more important dysfunction, already mentioned in paragraph 1, could be
the impact of brand journalism activities on the ow of information and news
around themes and issues of public interest. As commented by Doctor (2013),
content marketing can blur the lines between without fear or favornews and
market pitches and there will be heavy pressures to do so.Brand journalism
representing private interests can try to manage news about current events, by
introducing into the public conversation subtle brand references that can be
dicult to dierentiate from other journalism. Salmon (2013) concludes, after
analyzing the distinctions between what he denes as buzzy terms(content
marketing, sponsored marketing, native advertising and brand journalism), that
it should never be forgotten that they are all attempts by companies to get
consumers to read things which the company in question, or its executives,
wants those consumers to read(without being really conscious of it, could be
Finally, it is also interesting to consider what brand journalisms future will
be. Its current explosion looks like a natural development of activities that were
conducted by many companies in the past and have since grown exponentially
through new technologies. However, what is its real growth potential? Both the
world of communication and the world of technology are in a sort of perpetual
transformation, and the eects of the coming changes to brandsrelationships
with clients and stakeholders are not easily ascertained. Today we can say that
brand journalismsgrowth is a fact. We will need to wait some time to under-
stand to what extent the fact has been a fad or not.
134 Ángel Arrese and Francisco J. Pérez-Latre
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This research hasn't been cited in any other publications.
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