In the days before television, print journalism was in its prime. Being a journalist was a hip, almost glamorous career choice. Even Superman took a day job as a journalist. The newspaper was king, and the daily paper was the main source of information for many people. In the 1970s, investigative journalism entered a new era of importance when Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward broke the Watergate scandal and played a key role in bringing down President Richard Nixon. Journalists could quite literally change the world.
Toward the beginning of the 21st century, however, the newspaper slowly but steadily started to lose its dominance and, some would argue, its relevance. First came the onslaught of 24-hour cable news networks, which suddenly made the morning papers feel outdated by the time they hit newsstands. Then, of course, came the popularity of the Internet and its plethora of blogs and seemingly endless supply of information. As newspapers’ circulations dropped, so did their advertisers, and even the strongest and most venerable of papers such as the New York Times found themselves slashing their budgets and staffs. If Clark Kent had just moved to Metropolis 10 years ago, would he even have been able to find a job? Claims that print journalism was dead ran rampant.
As news has progressed into the digital world, we are now on the precipice of a new era of journalism—that of the brand journalist. Though you may hear the word “brand” and automatically think “advertisement,” brand journalism is not about selling a product to your audience. Quite the contrary. If you gave your readers a sales pitch, you likely wouldn’t have many readers left to speak of.
Rather, this type of journalism is about having a deep understanding of what your audience is interested in and sharing your expertise and unique insights with them. You want to get them excited about something that you’re also passionate about. Therefore, it’s not only important to be a great writer, you also need to really know your audience and what specifically matters to them.
For example, say you really love cooking. You would create vastly different content for an audience of working parents who want to create quick, healthy meals than you would for an audience of foodies who spend hours in the kitchen preparing gourmet masterpieces.
And in this world of content creation, a writer now also creates and builds her own brand through a digital portfolio of bylines, blogs, and tweets. You no longer have to be a star New York Times reporter to have your voice heard—anyone with a passion for news and the knowledge of how to tell a good story can start a blog. Readers then develop a growing trust for you because of the quality of your articles. And, as you gain their trust, you become a respected influencer in your field—someone who is valued not only in the journalism world, but in the worlds of business and marketing as well.
Journalism in this new digital era is, in fact, anything but dead, and it’s a really exciting time to be a writer. Which begs the question: If Clark Kent were starting off his career today, would he be a brand journalist?