Wolf at the Door?
Should journalism worry about content marketing? That’s the question posed by the in-depth cover story in the Nov/Dec issue of the Columbia Journalism Review: Wolf at the Door.
Author Michael Meyer examines the content marketing efforts being conducted on behalf of many well-known consumer brands and compares what they do to traditional journalism.
“Everyone I talked to for this piece seems to agree that some essential distinction between journalism and content marketing needs to be preserved, but no one agrees on exactly what that distinction should be.” Meyer takes a look at content marketing being done by Nestlé Purina PetCare’s team, Chipotle, and others. It is a very good look at today’s publishing environment: “content marketing,” “native advertising,” “branded journalism,” etc.
“As content marketers grow more sophisticated, they will continue to adopt the trappings of journalism if not the journalistic mission, creating a world in which more and more content looks and feels the same but in fact isn’t,” writes Meyer. “The truth is, we’ve always been out there in the information landscape on our own, choosing what to trust and what to ignore. The difference now is that there are fewer distinct features, fewer landmarks to guide us. Instead, we have labels. The landscape is flattening, and flattening fast.”
What is Philosophy For?
The 50 Year Argument
Directed by Martin Scorsese, the HBO documentary “The 50 Year Argument" examines the history of The New York Review of Books. Wow.
The Sense of Style
Steven Pinker’s latest book, The Sense of Style, may be a bit of a departure for the author but I’m still excited to read it. (In fact I’m already on page 57.) The subtitle offers further description: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Pinker is a wonderful writer himself. As he states in his introduction, the book isn’t a reference book or a style guide. Instead it highlights what makes good writing and why it is still so important to be able to communicate clearly, with a bit of style and personality. Here is a partial book description from Barnes and Noble.
“Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?
“In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.”
Marie Howe On Being
Krista Tippett’s recent guest on her show, On Being, was Marie Howe, the State Poet of New York and instructor at Sarah Lawrence College. It’s a wonderful interview about the power and mystery of poetry. Here she reads a new poem called “Magdelene-The Seven Devils," her interpretation from the only mention of Mary Magdalene in the Bible.
“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out” —Luke 8:2.
Stunning Writing Studios
I believe I would find myself to be very comfortable in any of these ten stunning writing studios, from Flavorwire.
Living Inside Stories
Jonathan Gottschall comes the closest to fully articulating a theory that I’ve long been interested in, and one that has probably not been given its full due: that science and storytelling are indeed connected. As he says in this interview at Edge: No matter where you go in the world, stories are universal and “universally the stories are more or less like ours: the same basic human obsessions, and the same basic structure. The structure comes down to: stories have a character, the character has a predicament or a problem—they’re always problem-focused—and the character tries to solve the problem. In its most basic terms, that’s what a story is—a problem solution narrative.” We live inside our stories.
I look forward to reading his most recent book: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human. Here’s a partial description from Barnes and Noble: “Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why? ... Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?”
And here is the interview from Edge:
Sponsored Content Trust
A quick study conducted by Chartbeat reveals an ongoing concern about sponsored content: Readers aren’t quite sure whether they trust it. According to their data collected earlier this summer, only 24 percent of readers scroll through online sponsored content, compared to 71 percent of readers who scrolled through normal content. Paid posts, sponsored content, whatever name you give it, such material just doesn’t quite resonate as it should. The data reveal answers, but also raise further questions. Is it due to the quality of the content that is sponsored? Do people really know what “sponsored” really means?
Joe Lazauskas at Contently, a company that actually works with companies to help them produce their own custome content, writes about the data in a blog post: “While a plurality (48 percent) of respondents believe that “Sponsored Content” means that an advertiser paid for the article to be created and had influence on the article’s content, more than half (52 percent) thought it meant something different. But that’s not where the confusion ends. Some of the most striking revelations include:
“Two-thirds of readers have felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video was sponsored by a brand.
54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.
59 percent of readers believe a news site loses credibility if it runs articles sponsored by a brand.
As education level increases, so does mistrust of sponsored content.
And yet, respondents rated branded content as more trustworthy than Fox News, and nearly equally trustworthy as MSNBC, indicating that content has a mistrust problem overall.”
The post addresses many of the questions that continue to challenge both readers and publishers alike.
Philip Seymour Hoffman on Happiness
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman on happiness: “I would definitely say that pleasure is not happiness.”
Push v. Pull Media
A recent post at the Atlantic Wire shows that visits to the New York Times homepage fell by half over the past two years. A variety of data shows that readers no longer seek out media, but rather read only what is sent along on social media. In other words, media no longer attract readers (pull) but instead find readership through links, texts, social media and other alerts (push). From the story The News Homepage is Dead:
“The decline in mobile app usage is also significant, but probably related. Home pages, section fronts, and apps are pull media—that is, they rely on readers actively requesting them. But the new news habit is no habit at all ... Pull media has quickly been replaced by push media, as the Times report makes clear in so many words. Information—status updates, photos of your friends, videos of Solange, and sometimes even news articles—come at you; they find you. And media that don’t are hardly found at all.”