The Shift

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By Robert Delaney

Just a couple of months after my career shift from journalism to brand journalism and I’ve been asked at least once a week what it’s like to work on the “dark side.”

It hasn’t been very different. So far, I haven’t had to come up with a tag line or a sales pitch or a special offer. I spend much of my time looking for objective sources of information and data. I put this material together for an audience that has opted into a particular conversation because they want, more than anything, to learn something. The members of these audiences opt out once the content looks like a marketing initiative. So in short, not much has changed, except that the work is meant to drive sales leads to my company’s clients. Put simply, the objective is to make money for a certain group of stakeholders. There’s a profit motive.

News outlets have the luxury of claiming to be in the business of creating transparency. But how many of them can claim to ignore their balance sheets for the greater good? At Bloomberg News, we were told to write for “Aunt Agatha,” but in reality we were writing for the Wolves of Wall Street. At The Globe and Mail, a venerable Canadian institution, extremely difficult financial circumstances hang over every reporter’s head, and many talented people have had to leave as a result.

Perhaps I’m drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid, but I have to believe that audiences will always be sophisticated enough to know when to look for brand journalism and when to consult The New York TimesThe Globe and Mail, the Financial Times, or The Wall Street Journal. And I’m happy that the era of the sales pitch is coming to a close.

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