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The Merging Markets of Journalists, Publishers, Agencies, and Brands

You have to embrace the new connected media world. You mix the best elements of the old world, eliminate the intermediaries, and use the result to connect directly with your audience.

Written by on July 3, 2012

Marketing used to do two things: Advertising and PR. Agencies came up with ideas, Newspapers were "the bringers of news", Authors wrote stories, publishers distributed them, and book stores sold them.

Each group were living in a very carefully confined media silo, and back then it made sense to target each one individually. This is why a site like Adage is targeting marketing professionals and why a site like Nieman Journalism Lab targets journalists - they used to be two completely different markets.

But if you are a regular reader of this site, you might have noticed that I mix them together. One day I write about the future of books, the next what promoted posts on Facebook means, followed by a report on newspapers and their paywalls.

Wouldn't it be better if I divided them up into sections and allowed you to subscribe just the kind of media focus you need?

The answer is no, because this site is not about what media used to be. It's about the shift in media and what it will be like in the future. This is the purpose of Baekdal Plus, and this purpose is reflected in how this site works and how it is organized.

One of the biggest shifts is that the old media silos are crumbling. They are being replaced by a single shared media silo, in which we have a very scattered form of media.

Take authors. In the past, their role was to write - and nothing else. The publisher's role was then to use their distribution networks to get the book into the book store as well as planning national marketing campaigns (for popular authors), and the book shops role was to influence and connect directly with the reader.

The Author was a worker, the publishers were B2B, and the shop was B2C. But then came Twitter, Facebook and Google+, as well as the direct world of the internet and the new world of self-publishing.

Now, if an author wants to sell his book, she first has to connect directly with her audience! That means she has to think of herself as an influencer. The author has to be a brand, and she has to think and act like brand.

The story itself is also changing. Back in the old days, a book was limited by the cost of distribution and the patterns of print, meaning each book had to be passive, linear, and about 400 pages long. It is a limitation that no longer exists. As an author, you need to consider if a passive linear book is the best way to do it ...or maybe it is better to write a shorter book, followed by an exciting podcast series, each 20 minutes long and offered to people via a subscription.

Brands are facing the same shift. They too have to think differently. In the past, they created a product and then tried to influence the media to 'spread the word' - usually by buying advertisements in magazines or sending out press realizes to journalists.

Now, brands also have to connect directly with their customers, and that means they have to think of how communicate with them. Nobody wants to read a press release. You have to give them a story in a way that makes people connect with you. How do you do that in the best way? The answer is by using the skill and tactics as a journalist.

You have to be the media, and if you create a great story you might also want consider turning into a long-form story, meaning you are also becoming an author.

If you, as brand, sell kitchen utensils, you might want to consider making an app about cooking, with new editions being sold via in-app purchases. That means you as a brand are no longer just a brand, you are also a magazine, an author and an app developer.

Newspapers and magazines also face exactly the same shift. They can no longer just be the bringer of news, since the people they brought it for are now doing it directly. Newspapers have to realign their business and become creators. They have to focus their business on their ability to create unique stories, analysis and perspective. This means you have to create a product that people wants to buy, and that means you have to think of yourself as a brand.

But sometimes that product is best sold as an edited summary of a world event, published in the form of a book. Which makes a newspaper an author and a publisher, selling a product as a brand.

You see how it the different roles of media are all merging into one? The old media silos are crumbling, and in their place is a new world of media that isn't defined by a 'role'.

This is why Baekdal Plus, for instance, is not defined by a specific media role, and why I'm not presenting my analysis as something specifically for just one group - because in the future there won't be one.

You have to embrace the new connected media world. You mix the best elements of the old world, eliminate the intermediaries, and use the result to connect directly with your audience.

As a journalist, you have to be the creator (the author), and you have to connect directly with you reader and think like a brand while doing your own publishing.

As an author, you also have to be the publisher and connect directly with your readers. That means you have to think like a brand, but also not limit you stories to books. If you want to be really successful, you also have to create a story around your books.

As a brand, you have to stop thinking in terms of press releases and advertising that exists to help spread you message through intermediaries. You have to spread your message directly, which means you have to be the one who creates the stories that the journalists' used to make for you. You have to be the media, and not just confine yourself to being a brand.

And agencies have to change too. In the past, their role was to help brands influence people through advertising. That meant they were idea factories, and the fancier the idea the better. But now, agencies need to help brands establish that direct connection. Their role is to understand how people connect through authentic stories. They have to think more like creators and journalists and to a much lesser degree as idea makers.

I wrote much more about this in my book, "The Shift, from print to digital and beyond."

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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