Earlier this week I wrote about a curious job position at Storyful, a site that vets and verifies newsworthy social media content for accuracy.
It was oxymoronically called “Journalist (Brands)” and it sought a candidate with journalistic instincts to uncover insights and influencers, helping brands in the development of native ads and other “content marketing” gambits.
While the job itself is something I would never want to do, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a news outlet hiring someone to help brands, which are paying for most of this journalism anyway, to better connect with readers or whatever. News outlets have hired sales and marketing teams to do just that for decades.
My issue was with calling this a “journalism” job. Journalists work on behalf of the public, not brands. Storyful Executive Editor David Clinch responded to my concern tweeting, “I’m just saying we need journalists to do this job properly and that journalism is a key part of, not all of, the process.”
I get that, but the use of the term “journalism” here still misses the mark, in my opinion. After all, under that rationale a PR person is a journalist — They’re telling a company’s story! Just like journalists do!
I have a feeling this position isn’t going away anytime soon, so we need a better name for it. And thanks to the Economist, we may have found it.
According to its own job posting, the London-based financial magazine is seeking a “Senior Editor of Thought Leadership” to produce “compelling thought leadership sales proposals and research-based content marketing programmes.” The job also requires “excellent ideation,” which I think just means you have a functioning cerebrum.
One step removed from “thinkfluencer,” “thought leader” is a sufficiently ridiculous term — both innately and because of its association with Klout — for the task of helping brands pretend to be reporters. Its ridiculousness also makes it an appropriately embarrassing descriptor for any journalist fed up with the humdrum day-to-day of serving the public, because they would much rather be researching and writing on behalf of Pizza Hut.
[illustration by Hallie Bateman]