Posted by Tom Foremski - May 10, 2015
Just over ten years ago I jumped from one of the best jobs in my profession, Technology Correspondent at the Financial Times, into the curious world of "blogging."
I had no idea what I was doing, how I would make rent or what "blogging" was, and how it related to journalism. Remember, this was mid-2004, it was a brand new medium.
When Intel heard of my move, I later found out, it held an emergency meeting of its corporate communications teams to determine how they should work with bloggers. Is Tom Foremski still a journalist?
Intel held a similar emergency meeting ten years earlier in 1994 when CNET launched News.com. Are online news reporters journalists?
In mid-2004 when I became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper to make a living as a stand-alone "journalist blogger," it wasn't just Intel but also IBM and many other large companies that were puzzled by this new medium and what to do about it. I didn't realize till years later that my actions had caused such a commotion.
I knew nothing about blogging but I knew that there was something important and game-changing was occuring but exactly what? How would it develop? Was it journalism or was it a daily diary? Or was it just how software engineers communicated?
My friends Dave Galbraith and Om Malik urged me to jump in if I wanted to understand this phenomenon and they were right.
You have to be in it to know it.
A Blogosphere without rules...
How many opportunities in life do we have to jump into something significant and powerful, that it will rock global societies and governments, yet is so nascent, so new that there's no rules, no predictability, and no labels?
Blogging was exactly those things and more.
Many people were distracted by some of the mundane content on blogs. I saw it as something much more important, it represented a new aspect of the Internet -- this was now a two-way publishing medium.
Blogging platforms represented the emergence of two-way media technologies, which led to the development of the world of social media.
We now could use both sides of the computer display: one-side to publish content to, while the other side of the same display could be used to create media and publish back. A web page was now the paper and printing press! at the same time!
The effects of the two-way web are still being felt today but ten years ago my main question was what do I do as "journalist blogger"? What do I write? I was facing a blank screen and a blinking cursor.
I started with what I already knew how to do, writing news and analysis in the style of the FT. But I also found that I could write in other formats, there was a lot of goodwill towards tolerating strange media experiments: the 3am type posts, and fun formats made up just because I could!
Such as taking out the spaces between words for a secret message to Steve Jobs; leaving little easter egg links under a period; expressing my opinion about someone mentioned in a post by putting a link under his name to the Urban Dictionary definition of "Jerk."
I hired sub-editors and we would pass editing comments to each other in the source code of the page but otherwise invisible to readers. I wrote a column that continued as a column on three separate online publications returning to the first. They were written in such a way as to look as if each column was stand-alone, but also, they formed a continuous narrative that led back to the beginning.
I loved the medium. I began to think of blogging as a superset of all other types of writing because it could contain all the others. It was a tremendously creative experience and it continues to be, even though blogging has became dull and looks the same as the old media it was supposed to disrupt.
I feel strange and self-conscious when I say this, but the past ten years of being a "journalist blogger" has provided a spiritual journey of immense discovery and insights. I'm very glad I made the decision to jump into that strange world.
Ten years later I feel in a very similar position, I've jumped into the changing world of corporate media.
This is not "content marketing," which is a very popular term these days, which is a subset of corporate media -- a full-spectrum term that describes all types of publishing, such as white papers, press releases, marketing brochures, etc that every corporation produces.
The problem with content marketing is that it looks and feels like marketing. Every company is a media company but media companies don't write about themselves all day long. Media companies provide a service but content marketing is self-serving.
Today, corporate media has to include a whole set of new media formats such as producing editorial content that is comparable in quality to that written by independent journalists. This is not corporate PR it is something entirely different.
Every company has a media company...
Every company is a media company because it has to be, because of the continued decline of an independent media industry, because there are so few journalists around to help tell the stories of even the largest companies. Every company has to have a media company on the inside.
Corporate media is fascinating to me in the same way the embryonic blogosphere was ten years ago. Here are some reasons:
- Corporate media has a business model, the media it produces is a loss-leader for the services and products the company sells.
- Corporate media has a business model and that means it doesn't need clickbait headlines or rush to cover subjects dictated by popularity just to pay the rent.
The media industry has an unstable business model and there's no end in sight. Advertising doesn't work and paywalls cut you off from the web's best virtue -- the potential for unlimited distribution.
Corporate media can produce editorial content that is the equal -- and increasingly these days because of the loss of experienced media professionals -- it can be better than that produced by independent media companies.
But there's lots of questions and lots of uncharted waters to explore around, "Every company is a media company."
I'm very excited to be yet again, in a unique position, to jump into exploring a new type of media.
My job at Delphix will be defined over the coming months. But it is not PR. My title is plain and accurate: Editorial Communications Manager. Editorial content is not PR, and it is not content marketing...
More on this in my next post.Tweet this story Follow @tomforemski