Is ‘brand journalism’ the future as firms exploit Google News?
Google News turned 20 on June 22nd. In its celebratory blog charting its history, it revealed each month people click through from Google Search and Google News to publishers’ websites more than 24 billion times every month.
It’s easier than ever to be selected as a publisher of news by Google. You don’t need an established editorial reputation, you don’t need to register with Google’s Publisher Centre. You just need to add some simple code to your published news articles and tick the relevance, prominence, authority and freshness boxes. A few brands have worked this out and are already doing it.
In separate news, Reach’s chief audience officer David Higgerson was recently interviewed by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and revealed Reach’s regional journalists earn £21,500.
What does it mean for the future of the PR industry if Google’s made it easy to become a source of news and journalists at established publishers are chronically underpaid and ignoring more PR pitches than ever before?
I’d suggest it means we’re going to see a new wave of PR agencies.
Instead of hiring more PR folk, they’ll hire chronically underpaid journalists who are excellent at digging out stories. They’ll expose clients to these journalists and align them with PRs who are excellent at ensuring published content supports clients’ business objectives. And then they’ll align these two groups with a third group of SEOs who work to ensure the published content is counted for inclusion in Google News and nail the measurement piece.
This is already happening. Take asset manager Hargreaves Lansdown. They’ve been outranking The Times and other established outlets with their own content in Google News. This has not gone unnoticed by the mainstream press with the Evening Standard’s financial editor Simon English admitting Hargreaves “…. goes into the figures in more depth than newspapers tend to, but avoids the colour we hacks like”. He then asks if PRs will be pitching brands to these brand publishers in future. The mind boggles.
By becoming the source, Hargreaves raises awareness and drives targeted global traffic to its own website. There’s your PR value. No more reporting by guesstimate on ‘readership’ numbers (or f**king AVEs – how are those b*stards still alive in 2022?). Good solid Google News impressions and clicks all linked to your onsite goals.
Sound too good to be true?
Well, there’s no guarantee Google decides you’re a publisher. And you can be damn sure that as soon as you start competing with the media, they will cease to use your spokespeople in their reports. Is that an issue though? Perhaps, if what you want is credibility by association with mainstream media.
I believe PR agencies need to specialise to survive. Brand journalism could be the answer to this in an age of the disrupted media landscape.
Written by: Luke Budka, director of digital PR and SEO at Definition.