Like Godzilla and Ghidorah fighting in the middle of Tokyo, digital media disruption and traditional journalist ethics are at war. In one corner, media companies are striving to keep their investors happy, monetizing clicks and offering custom advertising opportunities to other brands. In the opposing corner, traditional J-school graduates feel they are under attack.
The thing is, these worried journalists aren’t wrong. Newsrooms lay off full-time writers every few weeks, the President of the United States has called journalists the “enemy of the people,” and research shows the public’s trust in traditional journalism is withering away.
Through all this mayhem, freelance writers have found themselves standing at ground level, catching paid opportunities as they fall. Many have built careers on solely accepting assignments from independent publishers. But as the world changes overhead, they might need to consider expanding their networks.
Though traditional media outlets are floundering (or being absorbed into conglomerates), the number of brands acting as publishers via content marketing are on the rise. Now, some writers might balk at the idea of casting a wider net for work. They might perceive writing for a branded publication as “selling out.” That’s actually good news for professional freelance writers who can stay open minded—more work for us, after all.
Contently’s executive editor Deanna Cioppa appeared on a recent episode of The Freelance Pod to discuss these shifting tectonic plates in detail. As a former journalist herself, Cioppa remembers the limiting mindset she once held. “A mentor of mine invited me to join a boutique content marketing firm, and I wasn’t sure at first,” she says. “I waffled back and forth, thinking, ‘Oh, content marketing, that’s selling out. I’m a journalist. How dare you?’ But the more I saw where content was going, and the more I understood how storytelling was as critical to content marketing as it is to journalism, the easier the transition became.”
Speaking with podcast creator and host Suchandrika Chakrabarti, Cioppa admits the professional transition required a metaphorical rewire of her brain. Soon, though, she flourished, moving from a full-time freelance position into her staff position at Contently. She credits this professional renaissance, in part, to answering the “siren call” of branded content, and she encourages more writers to do the same. “What I see from brands is this fierce appetite for journalism-level storytelling. […] They say we want this caliber of storyteller. They’re hungry for journalists, and journalists who have been made redundant or want to expand their skillset just have to raise their hands and show what they can do. Brands are ready to scoop them up.”
For more insights on journalism and content marketing, you can listen to the full episode here.
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