Journalism has been around for ages. Likewise, brands have been crafting stories to engage audiences for more than a hundred years; we've only recently started calling it "content marketing" as the digital world has taken a prominent role in our daily lives. The John Deere brand is often credited as the earliest known example of content marketing with its customer-focused magazine, The Furrow, launched way back in 1895. (Amazingly, the publication still exists today.)
But the digital disruption has shaken up the journalism industry. Journalists and content marketers face endless challenges in an increasingly saturated world of content, from the need to create an endless stream of fresh, valuable, and unique content to the 24/7 news climate, filtering a heavy flow of pitches and press releases, managing relationships and sources for developing stories, and more.
These problems are precisely the challenges that the Long Island-based startup Placemints aims to solve: by streamlining the relationship between brands and journalists, and thus providing journalists with a steady flow of compelling content relevant to their niche audiences, Placemints might just be the disruption the journalism and content marketing industries desperately need.
An Evolving Field in a State of Flux
According to Nic Newman, digital media strategist and research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ), mobile, social media, and video are current trends disrupting even the new-normal of digital journalism, with consumers now searching for news on Twitter, discovering trending topics (the stories their friends and connections are reading and sharing), and distributing news to their own networks.
"When an increasing number of Americans reach news on their phones, and 30% find their news through Facebook, so-called 'legacy' journalism is over, at least as an independently constructed and distributed cultural good," says Emily Bell in an article for The Guardian. There's been much discussion surrounding the general disruption caused by what can best be described as the intersection of technology and journalism.
Jim Bankoff, Chairman and CEO of VOX Media, has an optimistic outlook on the evolving field. "You have to have faith that journalism and storytelling will continue to matter as it transitions into a new medium," he explains in an interview with PBS NewsHour. "Looking at it historically, we have seen a lot of disruption, of course, migration from magazines to cable networks and broadcast. Every generation, it seems, has had its own media properties that have been built into large, sustainable and highly profitable businesses."
It's clear that powerful storytelling remains a critical component in both journalism and content marketing, but interestingly, a market that's already in a state of flux is still in dire need of disruption.
Startup Bridges the Gap Between Journalists, Brands, and Headlines
In the modern landscape, every brand is a publisher. But on the highly saturated web, it's increasingly difficult to reach broader audiences. "You can't simply create content and wait for thousands of visitors to flock to your pages," explains Placemints founder Michael Sherman.
"Those days are long over. So what you have, on one side of the coin are journalists and publications who need to meet the demands of their audience--providing fresh, relevant content, and on the other marketers who need to get their messages heard. At Placemints, we're bridging that gap and streamlining what is presently a highly inefficient process."
Placemints relies on a network of established journalists and contributors to major publications in need of engaging content, along with a team of highly skilled writers. The company then works with brands to select target publications, identify relevant contributors, and brainstorm topics that are relevant to the audience.
Ultimately, Placemints wants to disrupt the traditional process of marketers endlessly pitching stories to publications with minimal success. Too often, these pitches fall on deaf ears because contributors are overwhelmed with pitches, many of which aren't relevant to their audience. They don't have time to weed through thousands of irrelevant emails, yet they need compelling content to keep their audiences engaged.
Leveraging a highly effective ideation process, Placemints is able to identify key contributors at target publications and formulate stories that audiences want to hear. Coupled with the relationships the company has established with contributors, the success rate is substantially higher than traditional methods. "The result is that we give both journalists and brands what they're looking for--exceptional content and a broader audience, respectively--through our relationships with contributors," Sherman explains.