Say Hello to the CEO: Chief Editorial Officer? 13

The idea may seem far-fetched, and I doubt too many current CEO’s (Chief Executive Officer’s) will go for the working-title, but the idea of having someone within a corporation solely responsible for managing the creation of original, social, non-advertorial, content is already being realized (Look no further than Scott Monty at Ford embedded above). The economic and media tumult will only bring more – with new potential titles.

David Meerman Scott’s open letter to journalists yesterday, entitled: “You have an Amazing Career Opportunity on the Dark Side,” (I’d like to think of it as the bright side) which served as an open call for journalists to the marketing / PR industry, got me thinking about the overarching idea behind this movement / industry convergence:  “Every Company is a Media Company.”

Andrew Heyward, the former President of CBS News,  and Dan Scheinman of Cisco are widely credited with launching the meme, and folks from Richard Edelman to myself have hypothesized its meaning for corporations and communicators.

In his open letter / blog post yesterday, David took a hard look at what that idea means for journalists, as they try to stay above water and gauge their career paths – amid the tumult within the industry. More interesting, at least in my eyes as a communicator, he specifically looked at how the current media meltdown has created a scenario where there is high demand from corporations to create original, social, non-advertorial, content and a growing number of unemployed journalists in supply – who understand how to create and aggregate it to specific audiences. David calls it “brand journalism.” A win-win it would seem.

But how did we get here?

In order to understand why every company is suddenly realizing that they need to become a media company and hire editorial officers; marketers and communicators need to understand how the current recession is shattering “old media” and greatly accelerating its digital evolution.

Recently I’ve been going through pages (there are 100’s of them) of the 2009 State of the News Media: The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (released on March 16th)which describes in somewhat agonizing fashion how the media landscape is forever being altered by the deadly combination of Google dependence and a Wall Street / Madison Avenue meltdown. TIME even noted their graphical analysis of the situation:

“Imagine someone about to begin physical therapy following a stroke [and] suddenly contracting a debilitating secondary illness,” researchers at the Project for Excellence in Journalism write about the news media’s long-overdue embrace of the Internet in 2008, just as a global recession began wreaking havoc on the industry’s biggest advertisers.

Some of the main conclusions of the report, included:

  • The advertising revenue model which has driven media since its inception can not support media in the digital age (put it in stone).
  • Several newspapers will fail and numerous others will cease seven-day home delivery in 2009 (check: Seattle PI, Rocky Mountain News).
  • While newspapers average an 11% profit margin and collectively take in about $38 billion in revenue, those revenues have dropped 23% in the past two years, while staffing at newspapers has dipped by one-fifth since 2001.
  • Classified advertising at newspapers could be nonexistent within five years.
  • Revenue for local TV outlets fell by 7%, an unprecedented amount during an election year.

If that’s not enough information for you, then look at the data points which Bob Garfield illustrates in his recent byline for AdAge (Via Paul Gillin at Newspaper Deathwatch) as part of his research of the media landscape for his forthcoming book – The Chaos Scenario:

  • In 2008, magazine newsstand sales fell 12%. They’ve dropped another 22% this year off of that awful base.
  • TV Guide, the erstwhile 17 million-circulation goldmine, was sold in October to OpenGate Capital for $1, or $2 less than a copy at the supermarket checkout.
  • “Bernstein Research predicts a 20% to 30% drop in 2009 TV station ad revenue.”
  • “For the last reporting period, Nielsen Media Research said, CBS’s prime-time audience was down 2.9%, ABC’s down 9.7%, Fox down 17.5% and NBC down 14.3%.”
  • “According to Media Dynamics, the average price of reaching 1,000 households with a 30-second spot in prime time, has jumped from $8.28 in 1986 to $22.65 in 2008 — but effectively more like $32, because between 150 and 200 of those 1000 households use DVRs to skip past the ads.”

As you can probably tell by now, no media outlets are immune. There were more than 28,000 layoffs in the media industry last year, the highest since 43,420 layoffs in 2001, and the majority of those on the editorial side will never file a print byline again.

So what does this mean for marketers at corporations?

  • They can no longer rely on “old media” to reach mass or niche audiences with messages, and they need to move their budgets in new directions
  • The Internet has flipped the control dynamic of news / information on its head: the prospective consumer is now in control of finding the information / content they want
  • Niche audiences prevail across the Internet and don’t welcome intrusive marketing
  • Google is the gatekeeper of brand reputation, making SEO and linking integral parts of marketing
  • Content is still king – and we need to create our own

Essentially marketers need to adopt the practices that “old media” is frantically trying to adopt online (albeit too late) to survive, and some forward thinking marketers are already moving in that direction.

According to a study released in December by Junta42, 56 percent of marketing decision makers plan to increase spending on content marketing for 2009. Social media tops the list (68%), followed by e-newsletters/email (60%), blogs (56%), case studies (55%), online video (51%), white papers (46%) and micro-sites (43%).

More will follow, with the guidance from the very journalists and editors David is writing to, along with marketing and communications practitioners, agencies and folks across the blogosphere and Twittersphere that understand the tools needed to create and aggregate content which: is easy to find and search-able (i.e. Google friendly), generates page views, is linkable, isn’t looked at as intrusive, doesn’t sound like an advertorial and increases dialogue around niche areas with current and prospective customers.

David Carr of the New York Times eloquently said in August of last year that “We are all Arbiters of the News.” The Fortune 500 are looking for a few of those “We’s” to be “CEO’s.”

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