Why content marketing should be the next move in your journalism career

The publishing industry’s woes are well documented but your storytelling skills are still in high demand, says former journo turned strategist, Brian Corrigan.

Some people will tell you there’s never been a worse time to be a journalist. Building a case to support these claims isn’t difficult with newsrooms shrinking and publishers struggling to reinvent their business models for a digital world.

When I moved from IDG to Fairfax in 2008 we had seven full-time journalists covering technology for The Australian Financial Review. We were filing stories for the newspaper, a monthly magazine and a couple of websites. By the time I left four years later there were only three journalists, the magazine was dead and we’d also shut one of the websites down.Brian Corrigan - Spectrum group

It’s only gotten worse since then. It seems we’re never far away from a fresh round of job cuts at Fairfax, News Limited or the ABC. While these high-profile publishers make the headlines, the impact of shrinking ad dollars is being felt across the industry. Most of the journalism jobs that are available pay poorly.

journalism average wage

For those who do remain, life in the newsroom isn’t what it used to be. There are fewer journalists but feeding the online beast means there’s more than ever to be written. The desire to break stories first in this environment makes it incredibly difficult to find time for meaningful research and cost pressures have stripped away much of the editing process.

Then there’s always the danger that you’ll get a tap on the shoulder next time management wants to cut costs. After all, there are few if any signs that the publishing industry has hit the bottom and found a new normal just yet. Anybody looking for job security need not apply.

A New Challenge

I eventually left Fairfax and headed back to the UK because of a family illness. When I returned to Australia in 2014 I was looking for a new challenge. I’d been speaking to lots of contacts through LinkedIn and everybody was talking about content.

As a former AFR reporter it was easy enough to set up meetings with a handful of agencies and I ended up taking a role with Spectrum Group, where I’ve spent the past couple of years growing a content business.

I’m not alone when I say the move from journalism to content is a steep learning curve at times. You work within a fairly set group as a reporter so get to know the likes (and dislikes) of your editors. In agency land, every client is different. And accounting for your time in 15-minute blocks? I’m used to it now but I’ll never be a fan.

Yet if you can cope with the business structures that feel alien to a journalist, there’s a lot to like about the content world. As a former tech reporter my clients are in the IT industry but, whatever you’re background, there are plenty of potential clients who need your help to communicate with their audience.

All brands now realise they have an incredible opportunity to talk directly with clients and prospects. Knowing what to say is still the hardest part – when the Content Marketing Institute asked Australian marketers to name their biggest five content challenges, 69% said producing engaging content (see page 27 of the attached PDF).

Business People At Starting Blocks

Point of Discovery

A major problem with most marketing communications is that too much of the content is focused on the last mile – somebody has a need or a problem to solve so here’s why they should buy our products and services rather than those offered by competitors. That’s all well and good but what about the rest of the buyer’s journey?

It can take months of research for a B2B buyer to get to that stage. And it’s not just businesses. Impulse purchases aside, consumers can also take their own sweet time gathering information from a broad range of different sources before they make a purchasing decision.

Whether it’s B2B or B2C, these journeys usually start on Google and this magical point of discovery is where brands are desperate to be part of the conversation.

Most marketers realise that talking endlessly about the merits of their products and services is not a recipe for success in this new world of communications. That’s why marketing departments need journalists to help them bridge the gap between what they want to say and what their customers are interested in hearing.


An Exciting Space

Many writers have walked the path between journalism and corporate communications over the years but content is a more natural fit than other disciplines. If I think of the journalists I worked alongside and competed against a few years ago, most of them are now involved in producing branded content.

Content marketing still has a lot of growing up to do but it’s an exciting space to work in. So if you’ve trained as a journalist but are struggling to get a start, or you’re feeling disillusioned about life as a reporter, maybe it’s time to put yourskills to another use.

As marketing continues its move towards the customer, you’re very well placed to capitalise on the trend. Maybe training as a journalist wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.

Brian Corrigan is the content director at Spectrum Group


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