COMMENT: Propoganda Spin Vs Real Journalism, I Know What I Back
Mark Jones a former tech journalist at IDG and now a spin doctor at Sydney based Filtered Media, has come out firing on marketing web site mUmBRELLA, after Hedvig Lyche, the former Isentia global strategy head and Singapore-based general manager was critical of the spin and content, that Companies such as Filtered Media are today peddling to clients.
He claims that content marketing has lost is focus and has failed to evolve.
Filtered Media is a classic PR Spin factory that is in the business of storytelling for clients, that is unless you challenge the credibility of their story telling, or the actions of their clients such as Hisense. as we found out when we dared to challenge the Chinese Company, who retailers and TV vendors had said were buying market share. (We will come back to this story later).
Jones claims the opposite of what Lynche is saying is true: content, and more broadly, storytelling is the most important trend in marketing today.
He is right, but it’s not content manufactured by Companies like Filtered Media it’s the content generated by journalists who have the skill and the knowledge to write the stories that get on the front pages and generate traffic.
What Jones flogs is Company and product propaganda which he hopes gullible media Companies pick up and run with.
Every day I get at least a dozen requests from organisations such as Filtered Media suggesting that we publish a story they have churned out and which they believe is “ideal” for the target audience we reach.
These stories are often delivered via a spin doctor email that claim that their clients have a unique aspect on a story or they manufacture a “quick” digital research study to justify a story.
Most of it is sheer garbage and at 4Square Media it’s dumped in the rightful place the rubbish bin.
What is not being delivered with this content is credibility or balance, yet despite this there are media organisations who are prepared to publish content manufactured by spin doctors.
These are mostly media Companies that are desperate for content, cannot afford to hire skilled or qualified journalists and are banking on bait content to generate a click.
Sites like ChannelNews, in the consumer technology market or mUmBRELLA who deliver daily doses of unique credible, and newsworthy information for the advertising and marketing industry every day don’t need cheap manufactured spin content because they know how to generate “Stories” that get eyeballs.
What the content that Companies like Filtered Media don’t deliver is curiosity or intrigue, they don’t lift the lid on issues or take readers on a journey of intrigue where the information clients don’t want exposed are revealed, these are the juicy bits of information that people love to read about.
It’s the content that gets on the front pages and the content that actually drives readership.
Consumers and business executives love gossip, they need to feel that they are in the know and on top of the issues out there. They love a little bit of dirt and more importantly they are going to be attracted to the headline or the story that actually fulfils their thirst for a daily dose of relevant information.
I recently ran an advertisement for a journalist, the ad stated clearly the type of journalist we wanted, 45% of the people who applied did not have any journalist qualifications.
Their definition of being labelled “journalist” was because they had worked in PR or a “story telling” factory where fake news and stories are churned out daily in the hope that media organisations run the content and they get paid for their efforts.
I am well known for taking the view that we don’t kiss the backside of vendors to get marketing dollars. What we do is deliver an audience that is relevant for brands by deliver content that gets eyeballs which is why we grew 23% last year and 20% the year before.
I don’t believe that over time the content being delivered by spin doctors like Jones and Filtered Media will stand the test of time.
Jones was and still is a great tech journalist.
He claims that he has witnessed a lot of “Hype Cycle slides” haven’t we all 3D TV was a classic that we all got sucked into.
He said “The good news is I’ve observed a consistent pattern, regardless of the industry plotted on the graph; that any technology or trend worth its salt inevitably climbs up the slope of enlightenment as it becomes normalised among business leaders.
We also discover that during this enlightenment phase the objections, limitations and early implementation failures are ironed out by a passionate and devoted industry of competitors.
Marketers are realising that content-led marketing, SEO and social campaigns perform well if you can use martech platforms to accurately nail your personas, reach super-niche target audiences, and deliver relevant messages at scale, in real-time. Give it a couple of years and we’ll be sailing along Gartner’s “Plateau of Productivity”.
Yeah, but isn’t the failed King Content deal a sign that content marketing’s glory days are gone?
This is just sheer crap and is not sustainable long term as consumers of information which is often being churned out by poorly paid graduates go looking for the information that wreaks of credibility.
Jones goes on to claim that in ye olde days, marketers knew 50 percent of their budget worked, they just didn’t know which 50.
He claims that “these days, we’ve looked at the new digital analytics tools, our ability to synthesise reams of data and come up with a new assumption: I expect both 50 percent of my marketing spend, regardless of channel, will work. In other words, wasted budget is not an option”.
He describes it as the era of data-driven storytelling “because, unlike the old days when newspaper and magazine editors operated on gut feel, we now know exactly what people want to read” he professes.
So, let’s go back to the Hisense story and my gut feel which I am sure did not show up in Jones metrics.
After several retailers told us that Hisense a Filtered Media client was buying TV market share by rampant discounting at big retailers such as JB Hi Fi and Harvey Norman, we put the allegation to their client directly. We actually went through Filtered Media initially, but they never came back to us.
The client denied it, so we pulled the Hisense Australia financials from ASIC.
Here was the real story, a Chinese Company who had grown revenue but close to $100 Million year on year, but profits had mysteriously gone backwards while at the same time their operating expenses had hardly moved.
Then at a Filtered Media spin event, at the Australian Grand Prix earlier this year Hisense executives and Filtered Media staff, told me that Hisense were now number one in TV’s and had been for several weeks.
Again, my gut feel questioned this statement, so we got hold of the latest TV sales data for GFK. At the time Hisense had been number one for one week. The data also revealed that their average selling price was below their competitors.
The GFK data revealed that over an 18 weeks period prior to my story being written the #1 brand was still Samsung who sold 104,830 units at an average selling price of $1,629.
When it came to revenue Samsung generated over $170M in monthly revenue Vs $87M by Hisense while LG generated $99M, Sony $87M according to the GFK data.
The data also revealed that Hisense was only managing to achieve an average selling price of $860 per TV vs an average selling price of $$2,023 by the likes of LG.
They were followed by Samsung who achieved an average selling price of $1,629.
As soon as these stories were posted traffic to ChannelNews and SmartHouse soared.
Why? Because they were good old-fashioned stories that lifted the lid on bullshit being peddled by spin doctors like Filtered Media who after we wrote the stories stopped sending us Hisense press releases, even the client refused to return our calls.
Then there was the PR Company that banned us for simply breaking information on the launch of a new product ahead of “their press launch”.
It was not till we passed a blow torch over the belly of their client that they and their client realised their mistake in trying to control a media Company.
Hisense is just one of many brands that is buying into a marketing practise that is dangerous and fails to deliver balance which is essential if a brand is to be taken seriously.
If any brand thinks that banning an organisation like ChannelNews, News Corp or the likes of Fairfax which Harvey Norman have done recently after they questioned the Companies accounts of the retailer they should think twice about their actions.
Because I for one and I know that the likes of the AFR will come after organisations who simply want free spin doctored content or their own story out there at the expense of credibility and fact checking.
Unfortunately, the media industry by not hiring seasoned experienced journalist but are prepared to invest in graduates who lack a “gut feel” or knowledge or even basic journalist training in some cases, are going to be the losers as marketers like Jones manipulate their employees with inducement and free content.
Only last week we had one client complain that they had only got a few clicks from an editorial review in one of our publications. When I asked them whether they click through to a vendor’s web site on every story they read they could not give me an answer.
At the end of the day PR is about a brand people and products and if the information generated by these organisations has relevancy to what information consumers want we will take notice but as for spin stories and so called “story telling” give me the ripper yarn any day over a spin fluff piece.
And as for banning media organisations because they don’t like what they write, could you image if Labor or the Coalition banned media organisations for writing a “negative” story, I will leave you to work that one out.