How Brand Journalism Changes Your News


Journalism in Information Era


People will always want to hear and see their news. We will always desire a trusted news personality to let us know what is going on in the world. Reporters like Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly will likely always have a place in the news industry. What changed is our desire to read the morning paper with coffee, at least in the traditional sense. Over the past decade, readers rapidly turned to the internet to get their news.

Advertisers responded by focusing their marketing strategy on the web. The business model of newspaper organizations crumbled as a result. Advertisers took their brands online because many more millions of consumers are available. Spending advertising budgets in online marketing proved a better return on investment for brands.


Tom Phillips, former president of ABC News Internet Ventures and ESPN Internet ventures, argues, “the strength of [digital] journalism is the ability to integrate various media”. The web provides a way to report news stories with photographs, audio, video and writing (Harper, Christopher). Many journalists argue that web journalism is flawed and lack of quality information and integrity is to blame.


News organizations responded to their economic downturn by re-designing their business model. Instead of selling ad spaces in papers, they’ve enticed advertisers with branded journalism, native journalism and content marketing. Iconic and trusted news organization like Time, Inc decided to include journalistic stories purchased by advertisers to seduce consumers into buying.


Birth, Spawn of Brand Journalism:


After learning how inexpensive and powerful online marketing could be, advertisers used guerilla marketing techniques to attract consumers. Pop-ups and banner ads surrounded web pages. Still today, users must click several “x”s to finally reach the content they intend to view. In 2010, major studies by Google proved pop-ups and banner ads were ineffective online marketing techniques, stating the click through rate for the year was 0.09 percent, down from 0.1 percent in the year before.


In the same year of Google’s study, Forbes online magazine began publishing content called AdVoice which was later renamed BrandVoice. Forbes believed brands could publish their own content in a credible environment. Forbes warned traditional journalists not to be afraid of BrandVoice. They argued that in the past gainfully employed journalists wrote special features and sponsored content, mudding the ethics of journalism. BrandVoice represented a clear divide between marketer and journalist (DVorkin, Lewis).


An excellent infographic created by IPG Media Lab sums up the effectiveness of native journalism vs banner ads:


The internet created the perfect platform for brand journalism. Prior to the popular phrase, most “brand journalism” was called content marketing. Bloggers, especially, would sell advertising spaces to brands. They received free products to test and talk about, as a result they expanded brand awareness or differentiation.


Forbes changed things by providing a credible platform for brands to take control of the content. From the roots of content marketing, native journalism is becoming more popular.


In 2013, the Atlantic published a profile of Scientology leader David Miscavige, produced and paid for by the Church of Scientology. The Atlantic, like many news organizations, was attempting to try out a new business model which included paid stories (Belam, Martin). Unlike brand journalism or content marketing, the sponsor and reason for the article does not have to be clearly displayed in native journalism. Cisco is a company who focuses on establishing, promoting and differentiating brands with native advertising. Their My Networked Life series markets specifically towards Apple’s target market.


Brand journalism is a powerful tool that businesses can leverage to increase their brand’s awareness.


Traditional Journalism vs. Brand Journalism


Traditional journalism was defined by expensive news stories reported to the consumer and financed by ads purchased by brands. The stories were unilateral. Reporters and news organizations decided what stories were important and how they were to be portrayed to the public. Although ethical journalism is meant to be unbiased, as a reporter it’s difficult not to express opinions. Traditional journalism was a one-sided story, but the news stories were not dictated by advertisers dollars. Ads were placed next to a news story not within it.


Online marketing forced news organizations to redesign how they earn money. News organizations can no longer sell stale ad space at expensive rates. Corporations, and even smaller brands, discovered more economical and effective advertising techniques within the web.


The new news organization business model includes brand journalism. A group of Stanford University students developed a web site on Journalism in the Digital Age and defined brand journalism as, “using the credibility and influence of news to tell a corporate story in order to achieve competitive differentiation”. Although brand journalism has become a buzz-worthy technique in the Information age, companies have used the strategy for years.


Ken Kaplan, editor of iQ by Intel, “recalls tensions between the two worlds dating back to his PR days with an NBC affiliate station”(Burg, Natalie).


While listening to the radio, a DJ might discuss his/her favorite products, occasionally they’ll let listener’s know about sponsors, other times they won’t.


Kaplan says, “ if we were going to show a product, we’d go to the journalist and we’d have bullet points about the product and how it worked, and then they’d go on air and describe it in their own way”(Burg, Natalie).


Brand journalism articles are written for television shows, corporations, products and even causes. In his book, Six Rules of Brand Revitalisation, Larry Light, former McDonald’s chief marketing officer, discusses the shift from traditional journalism to branded journalism.


The essence of journalism ask the following questions:





Light adapted these elements to transform supply-driven marketing to demand-driven marketing. The new elements included:




Brand journalism answers very different questions than traditional journalism. Controversy arising when brand journalism, especially native advertising,  is not clearly labeled.


Controversy Surrounding Brand Journalism


Orange is the New Black, a wildly popular Netflix original series, provides an excellent example of brand journalism. The New York Times published an interactive piece, Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work, and the sponsor, Netflix, was not mentioned in the content, nor was information about the upcoming second season of Orange is the New Black(Walgrove, Amanda). This particular piece of brand journalism may have contained rich information and the topic might have been newsworthy, but the origin of intent is where some people, journalists and readers, have an issue.


Journalism, considered the fourth estate, is a trusted method by readers to receive unbiased information. Even if a particular news organization often takes a certain stance on issues, readers generally are not worried about brands influencing the stories they read. Contently, a popular blog on content, performed some surveys in June 2014, They asked questions like:




Typically readers are distrusting of content if it is sponsored by a brand. It’s the same reason people will often switch channels or walk away when commercials air on television. They don’t want to be sold. Branded journalism, or content marketing, represents the same concept to viewers.


Although viewers are accustomed to advertisements when they watch television, listen to the radio or read the newspaper, many have not adjusted to brand journalism. Ethically, is it okay to advertise to someone under the guise of news?


Business and journalists have similar goals: they want to persuade and influence. “What sets journalists apart is a strong code of ethics to tell the truth for the betterment of society”. The author of those words, Diane Thieke, wrote an article trying to determine if brand journalism and ethics can co-exists. Her conclusion: “As marketing becomes more fact-based and news-driven- more focused on brand journalism- we need to recognize that it might be in our best interests not to edit the clip”.



Future of Brand Journalism


Major brands and corporations use reporters to market products and stories. NASA hired journalists like Julian Scheer, who covered the early civil rights movement and the first days of the space program. Journalists were hired to, “get the information out and tell the truth”. NASA understands the importance of selling a story to the public (Helm, Annie).


Today, businesses need to self-publish and create content. They need to reach a large targeted audience. Through the use of brand journalism, they can hire seasoned journalists to write convincing stories that promote their brand to a specific audience. Businesses can leverage the reputation of the news to build their brands.


As print media dwindles, brand journalism will become a viable marketing option for news organizations. In the past, brands would pay to have a passive ad nest to a provocative news story. Now, advertisers expect news organization to jump in and help sell, instead of letting brands do all the work.


Curating content that supports a brand’s mission will be the focus of brand journalism. Crafting content that entices and influences readers will be the job of  brand journalists.




The future of brand journalism is promising for businesses and news organizations. The key will be to uphold ethics that will increase the longevity and reliability of brand journalism.

Telling meaningful stories, much like the Women Inmates piece by the New York Times is important. Keeping the conversation open between reader and journalists is also essential. The public is wants to discuss what they’ve read and soon savvy readers are going to want to know where the information came from and why. A good brand journalist will respond honestly and quickly.



Like most things on the internet, transparency is essential. BrandVoice is an excellent example of transparency within brand journalism. Although brand journalism seems to be taking over the news world, technology has always influenced how people get their information.

Technology has also influenced how news organizations make their money. During radio, a voice-over ad was the best form of advertising, with television, commercials were invented. Brand journalism is not going to eliminate the need for traditional journalism. Although the delivery of news has changed several times over the course of history, the need and want to tell and share stories remains the same.


Works Cited

Belam, Martin. “Journalism in the Digital Age: Trends, Tool, Technologies.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 10 Apr. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.

Bull, Andy. “How McDonald’s Invented Brand Journalism, and How Brand Journalism Saved McDonald’s.” Brand, n.d. Web.

Burg, Natalie. “Journalists vs. Marketers: How to Ease Tension Inside Brand Newsrooms.” The Content Strategist Journalists vs Marketers How to Ease Tension Inside Brand Newsrooms Comments. Contently, 14 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

Crichton, Danny, Ben Christel, Aaditya Shidham, Alex Valderrama, and Jeremy Karmel. “Journalism in the Digital Age.” Journalism in the Digital Age. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

DVorkin, Lewis. “Inside Forbes: The Birth of Brand Journalism and Why It’s Good for the News Business.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 3 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

Harper, Christopher. “Journalism in a Digital Age.” Journalism in a Digital Age. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

Helm, Annie. “A Giant Leap for Content Marketing: The Evolution of Brand Journalism.” A Giant Leap for Content Marketing: The Evolution of Brand Journalism. Kuno Creative, 29 May 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

Thieke, Diane. “Can Brand Journalism and Ethics Co-Exist?” Simply Talk Media. Simply Talk Media, 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

Walgrove, Amanda. “The NYT Just Created an Incredible ‘Snow Fall’ for ‘Orange Is the New Black’.” The Content Strategist The NYT Just Created an Incredible Snow Fall for Orange Is the New Black Comments. Contently, 13 June 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.



While studying helping games, think about:

  • How you might create and use helping games,
  • What a helping ARG might look like.

After exploring a helping game prepare a brief reflection post for your MCBS blog. This reflection post does not have a required length or format. It could be a written post, podcast, or video blog post. Whatever the format, simply share your thoughts about the possible uses for the game and your overall feelings about the experience. You are encouraged to add screenshots or video capture to the post even if it is written.

This week for my bonus XP I played a helping game. A helping game is an online game that is created to support a specific cause. I choose to play Free Rice because I could do so on my computer without downloading anything. This game was a lot of fun for me because I got quiz myself. I enjoyed answering English vocabulary questions and thought they were really useful. Completing brain exercises as an adult is important to me. To be able to do so while contributing to world hunger was really satisfying.

On the home page before even signing up, the creator’s let you know exactly how the game works:


The sign up was easy and I completed a few questions during registration. Then I check my email for confirmation and clicked a link that lead me right to the game.


The entire game looks like the photo above. It’s awesome that players can choose from levels 1-60 at will. You don’t have to complete the previous level before continuing. It really simple and quick. I earned 300 grains of rice in about five minutes. There was a player who earned 11400 grains of rice in one sitting


It’s cute how they add grains of rice to your bowl as you add them


You can also easily join groups and check on your friend’s progress.

This was a great experience because I have a better perspective on the usefulness of transmedia and RPGs. Creating a fun experience that supports a specific cause, event or idea is a great way to get exposure. Feeding the hungry while performing a brain exercise was outstanding for me. Considering how many players earned tens of thousands of grains in one sitting says there are many others who feel the same.

For my career this activity expanded my perception of how to achieve a goal. For example, if I were to design a wedding website I could incorporate a game that teaches guests about the couple.

All of the concepts I’ve learned in this course are going to be useful for me in future. I understand how I can create interactive, lively and exciting experiences for participants while achieving business goals. I also learned how I can use thse concepts to create portfolio pieces that are interesting for potential employers to view.

TMSS Final Draft


After talking to my professor, Jason Gillett, I made some specific changes to my story.

1) I removed the behind the curtain links from the actual story links.

Jason pointed out that my central medium was a behind the curtain element: the tv show’s website. I removed this element from the videos, character’s websites and social media pages to keep these elements separated.

2) I developed Shane’s persona

In the soft opening I had a pinterest page and blog for Shane that were under-populated. I revised Shane’s blog and added more content. I also added some boards to his pinterest page.

3) Check and fix all links

My first draft had some links that were not working or linked to the wrong sites. I double-checked and fixed all my links.

Here is a link to my trailer video.

Here is a link to my assets folder.

GTS WK3 Project: Transmedia Short Story Soft Opening


Today is the Soft Opening of Sonya and ShaneTo learn a little about Sonya and Shane check out these teaser videos, 30 seconds on Sonya and Shane and Another 30 seconds on Sonya and Shane. The show is sweet, relatable and feels real. Sonya and Shane is an interactive romance series where the audiences input determines the decisions the characters make from episode to episode. Very similar to an RPG, Sonya and Shane combines the interactive elements of gaming with a television series. The characters interact with their audience online. They have social media accounts, blogs and businesses for fans to explore.

This project was a lot of fun to create and an excellent way to engage my own story-telling abilities. My project folder has my invoice, story element map, intangible invoice, press release and feedback form. In the final version of this project I would like to expand Shane’s persona. His blog could use more information. I would also like to continue to use the Sonya and Shane Twitter Account. I plan to add a “giveaway” in the form of a treasure hunt. With the feedback I receive from my instructor I’d really like to refine this story and continue to practice transmedia story-telling. I’m really interested in making sure my story elements are cohesive.

This was a blast to create and I can’t wait to refine it.


GTS WK3 Analysis: Games Expand Transmedia Worlds


Remember playing Monopoly or Candyland on Tuesday nights with your folks? Maybe not. But you may have seen it done in a movie. Now there are more ways to play games than ever. We can now play games on our computers, phones or tablets. We can even play a real-life version of our favorite tv show. Check out some of the latest gaming options available.

Wikipedia describes console games as a form of “interactive multimedia”.  The transmedia world of Defiance is an excellent example of a console game. Defiance combines a tv show and video game that mixes characters and stories across different media channels.


The video game debuted a couple of weeks before the television show aired.


Mobile games are played on mobile devices like cell phones or tablets. Kim Kardashian currently has a 4.3 star Google Play rated mobile game. Players can use their own photos and interact with their Facebook friends.


Browser games are played over the web. Skrillex, a Grammy-winning DJ, decided to launch a browser-game to promote his latest album, Recess. Skrillex’s fondness for video games influenced his marketing technique. The browser game is fully functional and combines elements from classic games like Zelda.


Collectible card games are played were traditionally played with trading cards. According to Forbes the best collectible online card game is Hearthstone. The game is available on PC, MAC and iPad. It’s described as, “a fast-paced strategy card game for everyone”. After watching a six minute video, players get an idea of how the game works, including the creation, the rules and techniques on playing. The “cards” are digital and collected and traded by players.

Board games are traditionally played in person on a board with multiple players and pieces. AMC’s The Walking Dead  is a wildly popular television show that crosses many platforms. The Walking Dead is available in a board game. The game is based on the show, but does not include every story element of the show. It’s suggested for ages 15+ ( the same as the show). It combines several styles of cards, tokens and badges.


Role-playing games are played in person and electronically. Players perform as a character and interact in a fictitious world. MMORPGs ( massively multiplayer online role-playing games) are a popular form of RPG. With the release of World of Warcraft in 2004, players have been joining millions to interact in immersive worlds online. Final Fantasy is a media franchise that includes RPGs, motion pictures, anime, printed media and other merchandise. With the release of Final

Fantasy XI, players got to chose their characters and interact with others online.


Live-action role playing game are role-playing games where players physically act out the game’s scenarios. Nero Atlanta has chapters all over the United States and uses an online forum to keep members updated. They also send members information through traditional mail. Players can find rules, policies, maps and various documents on their website.


In Cosplay games players wear costumes and accessories to act out their character’s role.

After logging onto, several cosplays across the world appear. Cosplayers can join or create cosplays. They can buy costumes and find out about cosplay events.  Many anime events were listed in the Cosplay events.


Fan Convention is an event set at a specific location and time where fans get together to explore a game, movie, comic, series, actor, etc. On, there was an event called SwampCon. It’s held at the University of Florida. It is a free two-day multi-genre convention that features anime and tabletop and video gaming.


With so many options to choose from, gaming lovers everywhere can interact and socialize with other fanatics. The new gaming options is changing the way media professionals are designing their projects. Creating a cross-platform strategy that includes games is more popular.


After completing this week’s exploration, I have included more intricate and interconnected pieces into my project. My main character, Sonya, is a Librarian who sells homemade paper and pens so I used some QR Codes and Giveaway Hunts to generate traffic to her Etsy page and blog.


Although I am can not create my own game, I may have my main character talk about some games or apps that she likes on her blog.

Sonya’s love interest. Shane, needs a bit more work, as well as some of the media that is going to create the details of the story. I need to record a short podcast by Sonya’s co-worker. I also need to flesh out the anchor site which is not behind the curtain. The anchor medium is a book. I am considering making it into a short series that goes more into Sonya and Shane’s life including marriage, baby…divorce.


Much work to be done, but I am getting closer.


The Rabbit Hole


This week for my exploration project I decided to use my husband’s content for the mini-hunt. He is a vocalist so the treasure hunt begins with a QR Code posted to his Tumblr page. I used  four elements including Youtube, His Music Website and Reverb Nation.

This was a great exploration because it helped me understand how I can encourage my audience to participate. I will definitely incorporate the ideas I learned today into my final project for the month. Currently I have a couple skeletal elements so I still have the opportunity to include mini-hunts in my story. I will most likely use these elements to connect each piece to the other.

Sonya and Shane’s online stories are interconnected but the conflict in the story revolves around both characters trying to pretend they don’t like each other. Using some of these hints and codes will help my story because neither character wants to fully engage the other. Sonya would use a code or photo to link to Shane’s content because she know how to make these things but she doesn’t want Shane to think she is writing a lot about him. Sonya will definitely use these techniques to link her Etsy account to her blog.

A sub-character, Justin, is more willing to link to Sonya but doesn’t want to appear to be  a stalker. He is more likely to use the techniques I learned today. He wants to show his interest but in a clever and flirty way.

When the audience becomes engaged ( and hopefully engulfed) in a great story, the best way to reward them is by including them. I love the ideas that this project generated. I can’t wait to work on my story: Sonya and Shane. – I switched the title to have her name first-