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November 14, 2012

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Leonard Jacobs

There is a difference between an attribute of journalism (e.g., the skill to tell a story) and appropriating an attribute of journalism in the service of selling a product. If Coke wants to appropriate an attribute of journalism, that's fine; that's probably a savvy move. But to suggest that journalism itself is represents the next great idea in marketing is to try to redefine what journalism is. For marketing is not journalism and journalism is not marketing. The definition of journalism includes reporting that is unbiased, uncorrupted, unaffected by market vagaries and untainted -- or at least, at the very least, unbought. In the real world, there will always be some fraying of these edges. (Repeat after me: "product placement.") But when people read journalism (online or in print), they have every reasonable right and expectation that what they are reading has not been purchased by a corporate entity. Coke can buy all the journalists they want; it's admirable that they say -- they say -- they'll offer "reporting" on their site that is not censored or automatically favorable. But at the end of the day, this is not journalism. It's the appropriation of journalism in the service of a product. Not to call it what it is is fundamentally misleading. And that is the truth.

Stephanie Kulke

Brilliant post Adam - thanks for pointing out this NYTimes story. I think Coke is very smart to focus the new website content on the customer rather than sales pitches and corporate spin -- no matter how artful marketing is - the end result is sales - and the traditional path is to position the company in the best possible light. Hence the spinning is hard to get away from.

I think marketers (whether we work for an arts org or other) could benefit from spending more time inviting and listening to input from customers, and openly sharing online reviews and stories from the customers point of view. You may get a mixed bag of brilliant testimonials and calling out flaws or shortcomings compared to the competition. But it's info the host company can learn from, and I would imagine the content is more authentic, fresh and interesting for customers to read.

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