Celebrating Oreo’s now-famous twi-jacking (Or is it “twit-jacking?”) of the Super Bowl for the brand’s own milk-and-cookies purposes, the ad business erupted early this year with ecstatic chatter about so-called “brand newsrooms.” While the chatter focused in minute detail on brands and to a lesser extent on rooms, there was virtually nothing about what constitutes news.
Apparently, the ad people peddling brand newsrooms know nothing about news. So the brand newsroom conversation has been ill informed at best and nonsensical the rest of the time.
The focus on news from brands is appropriate and necessary. Brands live in the same digital world as the rest of us. Our world is increasingly dominated by social sharing, driven by content. If a brand wants its stories shared on social platforms – and it does – those stories need to be newsworthy in the most straightforward sense of the term: new and worthy of an audience’s attention. So brands need to master a concept that’s as central to journalism as it is to swapping stories with your neighbor: news value.
News value is tangible and well understood by news people. Not so much for ad folk. The ever-escalating discussion about brand newsrooms has proven that the idea of “news” is a shape-shifter for ad folk and digital start-up people.
I grew up in newsrooms at dailies, weeklies and magazines. I haunted newsrooms as a freelancer for The Washington Star, now defunct; city hall bureau chief, among other things, for The Detroit Free Press; president of Chicago Magazine and so on. Seeing the world through the lens of news value, I founded agencies to create real stories for brands in the form of magazines, newsletters, web content, apps, games and so on. Now I head a shop built to replace the traditional ad agency with content-based advertising in all media channels. Out of our 170 professionals, about three dozen are journalists.