periscope-story-joan-m
Human Resources

Periscope & the clamour of tech brands hiring journalists

It is a well-known cliché that the world goes in swings and roundabouts and so – just as stacks of journalists are getting fired by publishers – now tech companies are keen to hire them.

On Monday, Evan Hansen, the current Head of Content Labs at Medium – and formerly editor-in-chief of Wired.com – announced he is joining the Twitter-owned live video app, Periscope as editor-in-chief. He is due to start his new role in mid-May and although CNN Money described, his job title is a “head scratcher”, it explained the app “needs to help users spot the very best live streams amid all the noise”.

This announcement comes as part of a general move to push more newsy content on technology platforms. This has included a surge of activity from companies like YouTube – and especially Facebook Live – to aggressively promote live video content. 

So, as the race for who will be most successful in the field continues, Periscope has firmly placed its hat in the ring. CNN Money pointed out that, only this weekend users of the app live-streamed pictures of a church fire in Manhattan before television news crews arrived on the scene. While as the content can also be promoted directly on parent company Twitter, it is very easy to amplify its reach.

Personally, I also suspect that bad PR – like the recent story of the Ohio woman allegedly live-streaming the rape of a teenage girl on the app – has encouraged the brand to make a senior, named individual responsible for the content. This is how newspapers have always fielded the blame for sharing information irresponsibly.  

Liban Nooh, Director of Global Marketing at PR and marketing agency Racepoint Global, reminds us that many major technology companies, like Apple – which recently hired Michael Rundle from Wired to head up its UK technology coverage – are following this trend. This includes the case of Verizon purchasing media organisations including AOL and possibly Yahoo to bolster its own content offerings.

Nooh tells IDG Connect: “The next few years we are likely to see more content curation becoming increasing important to the tech sector. Hiring editors to curate content is a quick way to diversify a technology business.”

Tim Rodie, Head of Content at, dealer comparison start-up carwow, explains why his company has been hiring journalists. “Despite billing ourselves as the better way to buy new cars, carwow started life as an editorial site – aggregating car reviews to help people make the right purchasing decisions.”

Since then the “company has moved on to revolutionise the way people actually buy cars, [but] we still believe quality editorial is a key part of what we do,” he adds. This helps potential customers with the independent answers they need to improve their buying process.

“Building out editorial as a part of a business also not only humanises what your company does, but by doing so acts as a huge trust signal. If a customer is going to use your product, why wouldn't they want to feel more empathy with what you do?”

The use of editorial in different ways to drive improved business models is nothing new but I can’t help wondering, how much of this is really editorial as opposed to content marketing dressed up in a slightly different costume. After all, there is still a huge confusion in many people’s minds as to what the difference between the two is. While the general move towards describing anything written down as “content” can lead people into some very odd ways of looking at the world.

In fact, there was quite an uproar on BBC Radio 4 over the weekend when someone described Shakespeare as an “incredible content provider”. As Katie Grant, news reporter and columnist at the i newspaper put it: “is this a #dagger i see before me? Click here to find out!”

In regards to his brand, Rodie says: “There's the inevitable overlap between journalism and content marketing – we paint an independent view of the car market for would-be buyers, and if they go away liking our brand because of that, then that suits us commercially too.”

However, he adds: “You need to have a division between commercial and editorial arms of the business. We have no paid advertising on our website, unlike many editorial competitors – who often are paid by car manufacturers to run ads – so our content team has completely free reign to make recommendations based on their experiences.”

He believes numerous tech companies are likely to invest in journalists in future. “These could be anything from tech start-ups that need to demonstrate a personable approach to get consumer confidence and buy-in, or simply existing brands who haven't yet realised the huge potential of having someone in-house who can tell your story and – for example – collect meaningful and impactful customer or brand case studies.”

“On the flip side you have the growing trend for sites that curate content that runs in a similar vein to their core business – and even in the act of curation you need sharp news-writers who can turn potentially complicated work into something punchy and engaging. Who better to do that curation than a journalist?”

 

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