Contently Comic: Welcome to Brand Journalism

welcome to brand journalism

If you read this site, you know that editors and reporters leaving journalism to go work for brands is kind of a thing—so much so that tech publication Pando even made a quiz to help people decide whether to make the leap, and where they should go.

Some of these new relationships have a storybook ending. Tomas Kellner was a pioneer of the trend when he left Forbes to serve as the managing editor of GE Reports in 2011, and now he gets to travel around the world while building one of the most interesting science and tech blogs around. Michael Copeland left Wired for venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and he seems very happy recording great podcasts and taking Scrooge McDuck-style dives into the Andreessen Horowitz communal money vault that exists in my imagination (but also probably in real life).

There are many happy stories like this, but there are also some not-so-happy tales. When Hamish McKenzie left Pando for Elon Musk’s electric car and battery company Tesla, his goodbye letter was so inspiring and hopeful that I was pretty sure he’d be our first reporter on the moon. But for whatever reason, the groundbreaking stories he envisioned writing for Tesla never materialized. A year later, he left Tesla and ended up at popular messaging app Kik. When Dan Lyons of “Fake Steve Jobs” fame left tech publication ReadWrite in 2013 for marketing software company HubSpot, it seemed like a strange but potentially brilliant fit. After a year and a half, Lyons left HubSpot and is now writing a book about how ridiculous the whole experience was.

Marriages between journalists and brands can fail to work for a lot of reasons; creating content at a brand is a strange and unique challenge, after all. Often, journalists raised on editorial speak like “TK,” “slug,” and “beat” find themselves speaking an entirely different language than their marketing-centric colleagues.

Case in point: They’re editing a piece and ask the 21-year-old marketing manager put on content duty for a new kicker. An hour later, he shows up with a football player in full pads.

You don’t even want to know what happens when you ask for a new lede.

Image by Martin Kozlowski

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