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Image by Llangwitches.

Image by Langwitches.

Journalism is dead. Long live journalists.

OK, the industry isn’t really dead; it’s in transition. Its underbelly, tabloid journalism, already lives online quite nicely, thank you very much, with its slavering focus on sex, sensationalism and celebrities. But fewer readers and greater costs mean that “serious” journalism is in flux – it’s not yet certain whether it will continue to be offered by traditional media companies trying to reinvent themselves or fall completely under the sway of new Net entities.

Even though traditional media numbers are dwindling, there is an increasing demand to tell good stories online, especially on behalf of brands.

Journalists are experts at spinning stories that people want to hear. So they are natural choices to work on behalf of companies and organizations that suddenly find themselves needing to produce streams of online content that must get traction, engaging target markets, and selling their products and services.

New online agencies have started to embrace this ink-stained resource. For example, \newsrooms in Toronto is using journalists and adopting traditional newsroom structures to tell brand stories through blog and social media posts. Newspapers themselves are taking advantage of the trend, setting up their own custom content divisions.

A May 2012 story in Marketing Magazine, “2012 Newspaper Report: Custom Takes Off,” trumpets: “Marketer desire for storytelling has become insatiable and newspapers are happily moving in to quench the thirst.” The story points out that the content marketing space is booming, with the North American marketing (including print, online, video, etc.) roughly valued at $40.2 billion USD.

The Globe’s Custom Content Group group editor Charlene Rooke points out in the article that bringing the newspaper’s journalistic integrity to the task “is the sweet spot for custom publishing.”

It’s a sweet spot that other media companies are also discovering. Toronto’s Ariad Communications, for example, got its start more than 20 years ago writing customized professional newsletters for financial advisors, banks, credit unions and insurance agents. Over the years it has morphed in response to changing market demands, and now tells compelling brand stories in different media for the consumer, healthcare and business-to-business marketing sectors as well.

Ariad has worked hard to understand and service the digital space with its custom content offerings. I was recently engaged by the company to work as part of team of freelance writers who will blog on behalf of a high-profile corporate client. We will create practical, advice-laden posts to drive traffic to the client’s listings of products and services.

“Great content for this brand, and for all our clients, has to meet high standards of both utility and quality,” says Ariad vice-president Marnie Kramarich. “Give customers content that adds value to their lives – by helping to solve an immediate problem, for example – and they will repay you with their attention, their business, and, assuming the customer experience meets the established expectations, their loyalty.”

In order to fulfill our duties, we writers will have to do quick research, write under deadline pressure and produce stories that engage readers and cultivate their loyalty.

In other words, it’s business almost as usual.

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