Monetizing Journalism by Moving ...


Monetizing Journalism by Moving Closer to the PR Business

It wasn’t that long ago that poaching a journalist to write a company blog was considered avant-garde.

Now that most major brands have figured out the potential power of owned media, the real experimentation begins.

This dynamic isn’t lost on publishers still in search of the killer revenue stream. If companies harbor illusions of cultivating their own media properties and a critical-mass readership, what are the ramifications for the “real” publishers?

For one publication the answer comes in the cliché, “If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed.”

Fortune, the bluest of the blue chips when it comes to long-form journalism in business, recently hatched a product called TOC (trusted original content). Why they decided to riff on TQC (total quality control) – doesn’t exactly send the heart racing – is beyond me.

What exactly is TOC?

For a price point that starts around $250K, Fortune will write stories for a company’s owned media. That’s right. You can think of Fortune as a content bureau.

I suppose the price premium comes from the assumed halo that will follow the Fortune content. But Fortune won’t be deploying its own staff for this dirty work. The plan calls for aggregating the horsepower of freelance journalists – no, make that “trusted” freelancers; need to stay true to the brand – to produce this content.

If I’m understanding the value proposition, it goes something like this:

  • We will deliver high-quality content to your owned media by managing a stable of freelance journalists. By applying the same Fortune expertise for guiding and editing compelling narratives, we will ensure Fortune-grade stories … even though the writing is not done by the Fortune staff.

You have to give Fortune credit for chutzpah.

Even at the low end, $250K buys a lot of freelance stories on the open market. Given the sizable pool of out-of-work journalists causing supply to far exceed demand, why wouldn’t you just hire an editor from Fortune and cut out the middle man?

Oh, that’s right.

LinkedIn did.

Note: This post pinwheels off the AdWeek story, “Fortune Writes Articles Exclusively for Advertisers.”


  • Mike Sottak

    Good post Lou. Here’s an interesting look at the flip side of the value-of-content debate. It’s a strange new world..

  • hoffman

    Thanks Mike.

    And thanks for passing along the PandoDaily piece.

    I’m not so sure it’s the flip side of Fortune’s Total Original Content (TOC). Instead, it seems to frame the context of why things like Fortune jumping into the content marketing fray are happening.

    For the “Nate Thayers” of the world, they’re going to need to be more clever if they want to be both a journalist in the truest sense of the word and command premium pricing.

  • Bill Comcowich

    Forbes magazine offers another interesting approach — publishing content from “contributers” who are distinguished from “Forbes staff”. The contributors have subject matter expertise and the writing is first rate (probably vetted by Forbes staff). Often, however, the contributers represent companies or have a commercial agenda that isn’t transparent. Forbes gets piles of good content at little cost; the writers get a “placement” in a prestige location. Win-win, but at the cost of transparency and objectivity.

  • hoffman


    You’re right about Forbes experimenting with a model that straddles the line between earned media and owned media.

    Here’s a post on this topic from last year:

    To Forbes credit, they’ve been transparent about the book’s approach. If you go to:

    you’ll find several posts from Lewis Dvorkin who gets into the “sausage making.”


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