Dancing with the Devil

Last week I was invited to CSTTG (home of creative legend Dave Trott) to debate the future of branded content with Sanjay Nazerali, Director, Marketing, Communications & Audiences, BBC Journalism at the BBC. The debate covered whether the news agenda was liable to being sullied by commercial association. My co-panelist who obviously knows a great deal more about the news than I do was concerned that beyond the rigour of the reach of Ofcom there was a danger of the integrity of the news being threatened. He calls for advertisers to regard funding of news content as a part of their CSR.

Pragmatically I’m unsure that this is any kind of longterm solution. Apart from anything else each one of us already pays a tax on “independent” journalism in the UK in the shape of the BBC licence fee.

And the BBC shapes a great deal of our journalistic landscape as every commercial provider knows who has to deal with that reality.
The latest Deloitte “State of the Media Democracy Survey”  points out that the UK consumer has fewer content subscriptions than his or her international equivalent, and half that of the US consumer.

I doubt if advertiser altruism is a serious solution for the dangers surrounding the commercialisation of news.
The greatest possible safeguard for news is the consumer’s appetite for information and their willingness to search beyond the headlines for what is really going on. This means an opportunity for brands that can satisfy this on the platforms that the consumer will subscribe to.

The solution will come from developing and divergent technologies and services. The trend in the UK for early adoption of technology continues and not only do UK consumers have more devices than their European counterparts (on average the UK consumer has access to 9.7 devices each according to Deloitte/YouGov) they also “demonstrate a growing appetite for new media services to use on them”.

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