Bateman Group’s Scott Martin: Why I’m Exiting the News Media Business

By Scott Martin, Director of Content and Media Strategy, Bateman Group

During my 15-year run as a technology news editor and reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area, the story of Silicon Valley’s business and cultural revolution has exceeded my wildest expectations.

I grew up gadget obsessed and was first to skateboard into elementary school with a Sony Walkman, so this has been my dream job. Watching my dad telecommute to Intel in the ‘70s from his hulking TRS-80 microcomputer, widely called the “trash 80” portable, I never could have imagined technology of today.

Nor could I have imagined the disruptive changes technology would bring to my chosen profession. After years of struggles, the news media business faces further diminishing relevance and advertising position. I’m getting out now to jump onto a huge business path.

I’ve joined the content marketing practice at the Bateman Group. I have no doubt that I’m entering a growing industry with an inspiring bunch of people. Bateman is pioneering brand content that promises visibility in a new era of social news discovery.

It’s been a wild ride. My first job out of college in 1998 at CNET News.com, now owned by CBS Interactive, put me at the epicenter of technology news at the industry’s Godzilla. The go-go era of “content is king” was short-lived, of course, for news businesses. When the dot-com boom went bust, layoffs came in waves at CNET News.com. It was sad to see so many friends go. It was a bummer for Christmas parties to get downgraded from San Francisco City Hall blowouts to huddles around bowls of Doritos at the office.

Years later I landed at Red Herring. The Web site and magazine covering technology companies and venture capital ran like a dicey startup, always in need of cash to stay afloat. The company folded but not before I got some great stories, including “How I Met My Wife.”

For the past three years, I worked as an editor and reporter for USA TODAY. The company did furloughs, buyouts and layoffs while I was there. Working with such masterful writers as Jon Swartz made the woes of the newspaper business infinitely more palatable. But the concerning thing was that USA TODAY was struggling during a tech boom and broader stock market bull run.

Technology has been swiftly dismantling traditional news media, and it’s only going to get worse. That’s because social media giants are becoming the new distribution powerhouses and gatekeepers of news as well as the place to put advertising dollars to work. Media giant Yahoo has been losing ground against Google and Facebook in competition for advertising dollars, so imagine the position of smaller media players.

Networking giants Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have also kicked off a Wild West of new content opportunities: Native advertising, or sponsored content, has become a growing business to place corporate-backed stories into people’s social news feeds. Companies can now bypass trying to get news coverage, making traditional news media even less important. Plus, social media destinations boast far more data and sophisticated ad exchanges than news media businesses. Corporations are racing to exploit this opportunity to better reach audiences with stories.

Bateman’s team is well-positioned to deliver stories and amplify them across social media. Talented veteran journalist Elinor Mills, who joined Bateman in 2012, has carved out a fast-growing storytelling boutique overwhelmed by interest from tech companies. Meanwhile, Bateman partner Tyler Perry has launched a media amplification program to help clients navigate beyond traditional media into social channels to boost messaging and measure returns. I’m really excited to contribute on both fronts and be a part of a new wave of content marketing that comes as both PR and media businesses evolve.

Corporate storytelling is exploding. Chipmakers Intel and Nvidia and computer maker Dell are among many companies employing journalists to write stories. Dell’s stories are running in The New York Times native advertising campaign, a recent effort by the newspaper to drum up more ad dollars by putting corporate-backed stories into its news mix.

The content marketing boom is only just getting started. Every tech company is trying to figure out how to deliver stories as people’s reading habits continue to fragment across devices and apps and big media becomes further disintermediated.

That’s a massive opportunity for journalists.

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