A year ago, I was fascinated by the news that Miller Brewing Company had hired its own journalist
to create a news blog all about beer. It wasn't just about Miller, but about the overall beer/brewing market. To me, this was a fascinating, if very narrowly focused, example of where content and advertising
are merging in a good way. In such a scenario, if it goes well, everyone can benefit. The reporter did plenty of real reporting, even breaking stories about competitors. Everyone knew that the site was from Miller, so there was nothing secretive about it, and anyone could take that "bias" into account. But it was an interesting model for advertising, content, reporting and journalism... all wrapped up in one. Unfortunately, it looks like it didn't work out. Without much of an explanation, the blog shut down last fall
. Perhaps the market was too niche. Perhaps the economic collapse was an issue.
Still, that doesn't mean the idea itself is bad -- and, in fact, we're actually helping some companies do something quite similar via the Insight Community
(if you want to know more about that, just ask
). So it's interesting to see yet another example of this in action as well. Salon's Future of Journalism blog points us
to a Fast Company story about a journalist who left a newspaper job to take a job with Carpenter Co.
, makers of cushioning. But he's not reporting on that. He's reporting on life in Stephenville, Texas, (which isn't even where the company is based). But the idea is to create interesting and compelling content
that's worthwhile just as content.
Of course, it certainly makes Carpenter look good ,as well. And, there's a new music business model hook involved in all of this, as well. Apparently, Stephenville is where the singer Jewel lives, and part of this whole effort is to help market her new album, which (conveniently) has a tie-in to Carpenters' bedding cushions in that the album is called Lullaby
Now, I'm sure some will naysay this whole thing, and insist that it's not journalism, it's bad advertising and it's a bad business model for music to boot. But, honestly, I have trouble seeing what the problem is here. It's a neat experiment (for a limited time) where everything is entirely upfront (no one's being tricked), new music is getting paid for and promoted, interesting journalism work is being done and
the company footing the bill gets some nice promotion, without having to ram a marketing message everyone would ignore down their throat. That seems to be a win, all the way around. Obviously, we're a bit biased, since we're powering some similar efforts by other companies, as well, but that's why we started doing such things with the Insight Community. It makes a ton of sense and solves a bunch of different problems in one single effort. Once again... we're reminded that if there's a need, business models will be created to solve that need. And this one is clearly one we believe in. Still, for those who still think this is somehow a bad thing for journalism, can someone explain how it's any different from the fact that GE employs a ton of journalists by owning NBC? Or that Disney employs a ton of journalists in owning ABC? This is the same thing, but on a much smaller scale.