In the 30 under 30 edition of Fortune magazine, Forbes Media staffer Lewis D’Vorkin speaks to a room full of public relations professionals about BrandVoice, Forbes’ answer to paid content journalism. This platform allows “marketers to join the conversation with their own narrative and expertise”- in other words companies get to pay to have content in Forbes magazine and Forbes.com, but it doesn’t look like a traditional ad, it looks like just another page in the magazine.
D’Vorkin notes that the line between paid content and editorial content in blurring because the worlds of advertising and journalism are changing. BrandVoice is an example of native advertising or content marketing. He talks about the differences between paid, owned and earned media and how content marketing had blended the three together, which can be a problem. If a brand is paying to have content that they have written in a newspaper, but the content is not an ad, it should be clear to readers that the content is paid for.
Media companies such as Buzzfeed and Conde Nast are coming up with their own creative ways to get revenue from companies in a time where ads need to be bought to pay the bills, but readers do not want to see pop-up ads when they read a story online.
Buzzfeed came out with new editorial standards last month. One of the reasons was probably to help them recover from their plagiarism scandal last year and to help them increase their legitimacy as a player in the journalism world. Buzzfeed explained how they are going to seperate editorial staff members who report news items and their creative staff who creates branded content.
“[Buzzfeed will] maintain a strict and traditional separation between advertising and editorial content. The work of reporters, writers, and editors is entirely independent of our ad salespeople and their clients. Ad creatives report to the business side of BuzzFeed, not to editorial…. We encourage staffers in editorial to collaborate with staffers in video or tech or data. But edit staffers must never collaborate or contribute to content that is part of an ad campaign — whether it’s video or text. Creative/ad sales staffers are not permitted to contribute to editorial-driven content. Creative staffers may create community posts under clear bylines that state they are not on the editorial team.”
Conde Nast is another media company that is venturing into the branded content market. The difference in their program 23 Stories by Conde Nast is that their own writers will be creating the content. This begs the question, can journalists write unbiased editorial content, while at the same time create content that is paid for by advertisers? Conde Nast executives seem to think it is possible for their content creators to do both.
As more media companies trying to find a balance between being transparent to readers and not having a conflict in their creative and editorial staff D’Vorkin says that P.R. professionals aren’t always going to be the ones writing content for the brands that they represent. BrandVoice is meant to join the “traditional media values and standards with the realities of the times.”