Is this the future of media?

Ian Burrell

Untitled 1 300x180 Is this the future of media?
Get used to it. The big publishers of the future may no longer be the news organisations of old but companies that want to sell you stuff: shoes, gadgets, holidays. Companies that have a story to tell and the money to get it told.

For many journalists this could be their future. Just take a look at what’s happening. Jeremy Langmead, former Sunday Times executive, packs in a prestigious role as editor of the National Magazine Company’s Esquire to go and launch an online editorial product called Mr Porter, which is owned by the fashion website and will produce the editorial that encourages readers to click and buy clothes.

Asos, another online fashion business, has just poached Melissa Dick from the magazine publisher Hachette Filipacchi, where she was digital editorial director of Today it emerges that the former editor in chief of Grazia, Fiona McIntosh, has been prised from her role as editor-in-chief at Bauer London Lifestyle to take up a post at the e-commerce company

Journalism is fracturing into myriad forms and the big newspaper and magazine companies and broadcasters no longer enjoy the domination they once did. Commercial brands understand that they can bypass these traditional channels and reach their audiences directly through self-generated content that the smarter businesses will publish on their websites then disseminate via social media platforms.

Many companies have, in recent years, moved into the customer publishing sector, distributing their own glossy magazines to their client database. But the web version has so much more potential, being open to all and offering opportunities for instant purchase. The clever brands understand that clunky advertorial, laden with overt brand value and PR messages, is not going to hold the attention of the media-aware site user who will only stick around (and maybe make a purchase) if the copy is not only engaging but credible.

This is why they are hiring experienced print and broadcast journalists to create online content that will build an audience of potential customers. According to’s PR director Lauren Stevenson: “Fiona [McIntosh] brings the extensive editorial experience needed to create the stickiness to the site, which brings shoppers to the site and makes them want to stay.”

The recent hirings are all in the fashion sector but a similar philosophy applies to all areas of e-commerce. This offers hope to writers who are struggling to earn a living in the traditional media and is part of a wider pattern that is greying the boundaries between journalism and marketing. The global PR company Edelman has recently appointed the leading journalists Richard Sambrook (former head of BBC News) and Stefan Stern (ex columnist on the Financial Times) while highlighting the value to its clients of producing and owning their own content. Meanwhile organisations such as News International, while continuing to produce conventional journalism, are open about their desire to build a stronger commercial relationship with readers, introducing them to the products of partner organisations.

Traditionalists may not like this commercialism, but traditional might not be making the rent for much longer. Besides, a surge in strong editorial content from commercial publishers such as fashion businesses, car manufacturers and travel companies, may just help to sharpen the identity of those news publishers and broadcasters whose journalists are beholden only to their editor.

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  • Ciaran Rehill

    We can see the future of The Indy over on the comments section on the gypsies, all that do not tow a very P.C line are deleted. Is that why Independent Minds went kaput?

  • Rachel Yeomans

    Interesting article – I would like a take on mixing the perspectives of the print reader and the online reader. Studies have shown that these are two different types of readers – the print reader likes length and depth of content whereas primarily the online reader likes brevity and information highlights. By bringing in these journalist powerhouses onto online platforms, will that affect the readership habits of the existing platform readers?

  • Citizen Bidet

    Dare you to say Israel…go on!

  • Paul Keers

    The question will be whether such content can continue to be “self-generated” by brands themselves. Publishing agencies have always acted as a go-between, ensuring that branded content is always aware of its audience, and not just its commercial bosses – and that journalists feel they are working for editors, and not for companies. That role is now being played in the digital space, and the most successful long-term players may well be those brands who continue to use publishing agencies as middlemen.

  • Anna

    To me it seems that this trend applys to the fashion sector in particular because fashion journalism has always been based on product information with “desire” and consumption as its goal (as Roland Barthes put it). Thus, the current development is not even that much of a change if you look at it that way.

  • AndyKX

    The clever communicator will be the communicator who understands what sort of content is best for which medium. There will always be a readership for the independent go-between between the product/idea and the consumer, be those “traditional publishing houses” such as newspapers or comparative websites where one can evaluate products against each other. But there will also be a continued growth of commercial publishing tools too, where consumers want a showcase of products they already trust and an easy quick transaction. I think what will emerge is an even greater importance of brand. Good commercial communicators will the ones who can build brands that work effectively in “go-between media” and commercial publishing.

  • Krokodil Gena

    Just opt out of this whole, mountainous, nothingness. Just ignore it all. It’s all crap.

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