Future of Media Preview: A Q&A with Globe & Mail’s Steve Ladurantaye

Feb 15, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog, Future of Media 2013, Media blog  //  2 Comments

 

The Future of Media event is under a month away, and we want to whet your appetite for the insightful analysis from media leaders from across North America. We first told you about BuzzFeed’s Jonathan Perelman and his views on content marketing. Now you can learn more about the intersection of advertising and journalism from Steve Ladurantaye, media reporter for Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper, who will also appear at our March 14 event in Toronto.

Ladurantaye covers print media, publishing, broadcasting, but also touches on issues related to sports and entertainment businesses. As he describes his work day, he spends “a lot of time reading financials and talking to executives about what they are doing to salvage their businesses in some of the toughest conditions the industry has ever seen.”

We chatted with him about the role of branded content in journalism, emerging business models for newspaper and where he sees the Globe & Mail in five years.

Since we’re talking about branded content at Future of Media, tell us what you think about the rise in brand journalism, both in Canada and abroad? Is this good for journalists? The media field?

Anything that helps replace the money papers are losing on the print advertising side is good for journalists, provided we’re not crossing any ethical lines as we blur editorial and advertising. And that’s where the biggest misconceptions lie – branded content isn’t the same as advertorial. For as long as there have been trade magazines and papers, there have been special sections that run off of an editorial calendar so that the ad department can sell around the content.
Steve Ladurantaye
But the advertiser has no say in the actual content, except maybe in a very broad sense (i.e. they’ll buy ad space as long as the stories are about a certain industry). So would a newspaper necessarily be all that interested in writing a series on the sustainable fibreglass Christmas tree industry? Probably not – but if an advertiser wants to underwrite that I’m sure there are some interesting stories to tell.

And while that’s all happening, the rest of the journalism gets to keep happening in the rest of the paper. Ideal situation? I’m not sure. But I personally prefer it to letting that money walk out the door permanently.

Your newspaper recently featured a piece about brand journalism. “Businesses that do it properly can create a huge competitive advantage, while increasing their credibility and relevancy in the marketplace.” Do you agree?

Sure. But first of all let’s call brand journalism what it is – it’s just PR with a fancy name. Think of how awesome it is for NASA to be its own broadcaster when it launches a piece of machinery to Mars and starts bossing it around. Is it good for the brand? I’m sure the positivity of it all casts a warm glow on the companies that do it well.

But I still think there’s something to be said for getting that same exposure from an outside source that is able to broaden the story, put it in context and package it in a way that makes it understandable. And this probably goes without saying – but in terms of the broader public discourse I’m not sure anyone would want to see a world where the main source of corporate news is the corporations themselves.

The media industry is still in turmoil. Paywalls are coming up to try to drive digital revenue. Social media managers are scrambling to ensure content goes viral. What do you see as a prescription for success for a print media outlet in Canada? What would you recommend to a publisher looking for advice?

If I was in a position to give publishers advice I’d be making a lot more money than the typical reporter, I suspect. But the one thing that I hear from a lot of people who spend their time thinking about this sort of thing is that the only advantage media companies have over their competitors at this point is staff – there are simply few other sources in any given community that can match the reporting firepower of the local newspaper.

Lots of other functions can be outsourced and centralized, but the true competitive advantage of companies who rely on content to make money are the people who generate that content. I think in the coming years we’ll see that owning and operating everything else – distribution, printing, HR, office management – will increasingly be seen as expensive luxuries.

Where do you see a publication like the Globe in five years from now? How will it look, how will it be consumed by readers?

I don’t think anyone knows that answer to that. The only thing we can do – and I’m speaking in generic terms here and not about any one paper – is make sure we’re investing the money that we are making now to build something that is going to start making money for us down the road.

What’s that going to be? Considering the pace of change and the way it’s accelerating – I think maybe we should start investing in news androids we can program to visit each subscriber’s house every morning. They could make them coffee and give them massages while reading them the day’s news. That would totally save journalism.

For our Q&A with Jonathan Perelman of BuzzFeed, also appearing at Future of Media on March 14, go here.

2 Comments

  • Very good post! We are linking to this great content on our site.
    Keep up the great writing.

  • A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you need to write more on
    this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people do not speak about these topics.
    To the next! Kind regards!!

Leave a comment

More in Blog, Future of Media 2013, Media blog (9 of 328 articles)