Journalism and Marketing

At an Advertising Week event sponsored by Yahoo! today at the Time/Life building in midtown Manhattan, Yahoo execs talked about a new breed of "Passionistas" who seize on a topic and want to be the first with information, and the first to share information. That mindset reminded me of the way the classic breaking news journalist is: get the info first, report it, share it, beat others to it, constantly, obsessively, scour any and all sources for scraps. Never want to be second with something.

A difference, though, is the passion the people have for their topic. What wire service journalist, for example, is going to devote himself to a niche area of health in the same way that someone desperately interested in it will? For health, the number of Passionistas is 1.8 million, Yahoo's folks said. And marketers want to go to them, directly, because of the passion they have and inspire in their readers.

Now, I know, they may not be professional journalists. But on a blog, they'll be called out by the community for inaccuracy. If they're not objective that's usually, over time, pretty obvious. Many countries' –first-world countries – journalists practice journalism on their front pages with a bias (France's Liberation is unabashedly left, Le Figaro right). So, it's not like passion or a particular bent disqualify someone from purveying legitimate information or even journalistic probity. (And there's no such thing as objectivity. Fairness, yes. Objectivity? We can try.)

I know what I'm writing here is heretical to a lot of people who consider themselves journalists. But those in the managerial ranks had better acknowledge the threat to not just their classified ads from Craigslist, their display and brand advertising from Google and YouTube, but also to their marketing dollars from people with a journalistic ethos and an incredible passion for a topic that may jibe well with a marketer's interests. Which is a commercial rationale – and perhaps a journalistic one – to do something Jeff Jarvis and others have suggested: bringing those bloggers into the fold, letting them tap into their communities through the portal provided by the mainstream news organization.

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