New global journalism survey highlights skepticism at native advertising and questions whether bloggers can ever really be journalists – writes Scott Guthrie

MND native advertisingToday we search, surface and create news content in a myriad of ways but journalists remain crucial influencers for reporting and interpreting news.

All-in-one brand newsroom and multimedia PR platform company Mynewsdesk surveyed 2,000 journalists around the world to get their views on the current state of journalism.

The result: a snapshot of an industry publishing on an average of three platforms. Still using press releases. skeptical about the place of sponsored content and native advertising as a revenue opportunity.  And snobbish towards bloggers.


Can bloggers ever really be journalists?

Asked what criteria journalists use to define journalists 42% answered that it was definitely not true that a blogger is a journalist. In fact only 4% of those surveyed considered it definitely true that a blogger could actually be a journalist.

Of course bloggers can be journalists. Just ask Ezra Klein. He created and managed the Washington Post’s hugely popular branded blog Wonkblog before co-forming Vox Media.

The media world has changed. It’s fragmented. Rob Brown makes the point well in Share This Too asking: Is the Huffington Post a newspaper? And reasoning that it sounds like a newspaper. But it isn’t printed. It contains articles like a newspaper. But largely these aren’t written by journalists. It houses video. So, does that make it a broadcaster?

In fact Huffpo has more in common with a blog than with a newspaper.

MND how do you define a journalist
Mynewsdesk journalism trends 2016: How journalists define their work of journalism

Journalism is platform agnostic. Today journalists publish on three different platforms on average, something that was unheard of a few years ago.

Objectivity is a key belief for journalists according to the Mynewsdesk survey. 63% answering that it was definitely true that a journalist should always aim to be objective.

I believe for most mastheads the notion of objectivity is subjective. Journalism is as objective as is allowable without offending the readers and alienating the advertisers. It is a commercial reality. Unless, like in some Nordic countries, your masthead has shared government ownership in which case objectivity may come with a political leaning.


Transparency over objectivity & the commercial reality of native advertising

Objectivity should give way to transparency. The commercial realities of journalism today mean that mastheads must rely on more than display advertising and the publication’s cover price to keep them in business.

Reuters Institute for the study of journalism believes “online advertising – banner advertising in particular – is going through something of an existential crisis.”

I’ve written before about how influencer marketing earns dwell time x7 longer than digital ads.

Sponsored content or native advertising is a potential source of income. However, most journalists and editors responding to the survey show great skepticism towards this mix of editorial content and advertising.

MND which channels to you report stories
Mynewsdesk journalism trends 2016: Journalist publish on any average of three platforms

The Mynewsdesk survey shows journalists are divided over whether they should produce native content. Some 40% said ‘no’, 26% opted ‘maybe’ and 34% said ‘yes to this question.

It’s a regional issue, though. Journalists in the US and the UK were more accepting of native advertising. Here half of the journalists were prepared to create native content (49%).

Ask this question in Norway and the response rate plummets. Only 11% of Norwegian journalists were open to native content, in between were the German (35%), Swedish (44%) and Danish (46%) nay-sayers.

These figures reinforce findings from a survey last year conducted by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Because media ownership in the UK and US is primarily private and independent of government support, journalists are more open to native content. The competition in the UK and US is also fiercer compared to Scandinavian countries which are characterized by a long tradition of media support and protection of journalism from business interests.

However, the surveyed journalists know which way the wind is blowing. 72% stated it was either definitely, or to a certain extent true that native advertising would be more widely accepted in five years time.

MND future revenue native
Mynewsdesk journalism trends 2016: Considering what will be different about journalism in five years time.

Consumers don’t have a problem with native advertising. Red Bull, the energy drink brand, is the world’s largest extreme-sports publisher. Consumers don’t give a hoot that this high-octane content comes from a brand.

In fact according to an IPG Media Lab survey, commissioned by Forbes Media, consumers don’t just like native advertising they show it helps them with their buying decisions.

The study showed those who viewed a page containing branded content were 41% more likely to express an intent to buy the brand’s product than a visitor who viewed a page without branded content.

There are, of course, caveats. Consumers don’t have a problem with native advertising on two conditions:

  1. they’re not hoodwinked into believing it’s editorial they’re engaging with
  2. the content adds value by being good quality

I’ve written before about how to master native advertising best practice.


Press releases as fundamental workflow tools

The Mynewsdesk journalism trends 2016 report also devotes time to consider the public relations work flow. The PR platform company approached me as part of my day job leading influencer relations at Ketchum, London. Here’s what I had to say about the press release:

“The press release has been an integral part of the PR industry since inception. Ivy Lee penned the first one 110 years ago. It’s enshrined within PR’s workflow.

At its most basic level the press release is merely a bundle of information covering Kipling’s six honest service men – the what, why, when, where, how, and who. These are the fundamental building blocks upon which influencers – such as journalists – can create a story.

That’s what makes the press release so compelling. It’s the distribution of this information bundle which evolves, both in term of who it’s aimed at and how it gets there. And we can choose which elements to de-bundle. Which elements to include like visual content.

Journalists are integral but are only one grouping within today’s cadre of influencers. If the press release is a fundamental PR workflow tool, then relationship building is a bedrock skill – there’s a clue in our profession’s name after all.

PR professionals need to build relationships with influencers by developing mutually rewarding relationships. In the earned space that means being useful to them. Knowing what sort of content they produce. Knowing what they’ve written about recently and being able to help by giving them information which furthers that conversation.”

Download the Mynewsdesk journalism trends 2016 full report and join the conversation on Twitter using #journotrends16

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Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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  1. Let’s look at 2 “types” for the sake of argument. A blogger who naturally seeks out both sides of any story is closer to a journalist. If they look at all facets of a complex/rich story then they’re closer to an investigative reporter. Let’s call all these Type 1 bloggers. Type 1s in my opinion, intentionally or unknowingly affect (relatively, to Type 2s) larger swaths of the public versus the types of bloggers who only wish to appease/woo brands which we can call Type 2s. Brands today generally love Type 2s and are wary of Type 1s.

    In the Type 2 world, there’s less endurance.

    Type 1s love facts and connecting dots and unprecedented aha moments. Type 2s typically never give a rat’s ass about that.

  2. And I feel it’s a spectrum. On the extreme end of Type 2 is the Mickey Mouse “blogger” (a.k.a. shill or mercenary if you wanna get fancy) vile blemishes in the blogosphere who “love” EVERYTHING under the sun (wink, wink) – I despise them. They are NOT journalists.

  3. I agree Alex – it’s a spectrum. And in journalism – like so many other disciplines, PR, hairdressers, barristas, – you get good ones and not-so-good-ones. But journalism isn’t so much about the platform. It’s about the quality of output. As you say in your Type 1.

    Journalism is often referred to as the discipline of Verification, its intellectual foundation rests on three core concepts – transparency, humility, and originality.

    You can apply those three concepts via a blog or newspaper, radio, TV, YouTube, podcast.

    Good to hear from you — as always,


    1. And Type 1s aren’t afraid of an extensive brand history. Type 2s regard such things as dreadful extra work. When a brand has a long history it can sometimes mean there are skeletons in their closet and many opportunities for irreverent reporting. Another reason why brands like the type of Type 2 who hates history and merely focuses on the now. Brands with integrity possibly like both with a moderate preference for inquisitive Type 1s.

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