Why content is still king in the digital age


In a speech delivered last week, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Barron tackled the topic of “Journalism’s Big Move: What to Discard, Keep, and Acquire in Moving From Print to Web.”

Under Barron’s direction, the Post has retooled the way it reports, publishes and thinks about the news – placing greater emphasis on how stories are consumed and shared.

As a public relations, marketing and digital media firm that works closely with reporters and editors on a daily basis, we think this evolution is a positive shift.

For starters, more value is being placed on compelling and credible content. That’s good news for consumers and publications. It also means reporters and marketers are collaborating more closely than ever before in a quest to create material that stands out in an increasingly cluttered digital landscape.

It’s up to journalists to determine what stories will ultimately resonate with their audience, and it’s up to marketing communications professionals to help package stories in a compelling, credible way.

Second, there are more tools for analyzing what is and isn’t relevant. This is making it easier to understand what people want and why. That’s beneficial for news outlets and businesses trying to gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns in real time.

The late NY Times columnist David Carr said it best, “I vastly overestimated the importance of broadcasting on Twitter and after a while, I realized that I was not Moses and neither Twitter nor its users were wondering what I thought. Nearly a year in, I’ve come to understand that the real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice.”

Finally, because today’s digital media universe is crammed with so many platforms for sharing information and ideas, companies and organizations now have more vehicles for telling their story and engaging with their audiences. There’s something for everyone out there, putting far more weight on where content is published.

Listen to Barron speak and it’s clear that the role of a journalist is also changing and becoming more entrepreneurial. It’s no longer enough to simply report the news; today’s reporters and editors are expected to help shape how the news is reported and ultimately consumed.

Questions like ‘will my story will go viral?’; ‘how will this column play on Twitter?’; and ‘what kind of video should we post online?’ are suddenly top of mind with journalists after decades of simply yearning for exposure on page one.

As Barron put it, “A single online story can draw more readers than the entire print newspaper.”

Barron also believes the gap between the business and editorial sides of a news outlet are narrowing. It’s critical that members of an editorial staff understand how their company is making money; and those on the publishing front can benefit from a clear understanding of how editorial decisions are made and how today’s consumers are absorbing information.

In the end, all roads still lead back to credible content being king. This is the basis upon which journalists serve the public and media companies generate revenue. That may not be changing anytime soon, but the ways we consume and share news in the digital age certainly will.