Paid content–it’s not just for blogs anymore! The Washington Post, currently known as the sad husk of one of our nation’s most influential and respected newspapers, just launched “Brand Connect“, which its editorial team describes as “a platform that connects marketers with the Washington Post audience in a trusted environment”. In other words, paid content. Sponsored posts. Native advertising. Brand journalism. And it’s not in a special advertorial section–it’s on the paper’s home page.
We could all see this coming, of course: print ad revenue at the Post has reached record lows. Sure, we still encounter the occasional impressive Game of Thrones promo printed with ink on honest-to-God paper–but print advertising should probably consider intensive therapy at this point.
You may ask why this is news, because lots of other publications do the very same thing.
For example, Digiday reminds us that Forbes has operated the “ForbesVoice” native ad platform for a while–and people on the Internet got a little upset at Business Insider last week for running this story about the “four distinct shapes” of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. The first post on “Brand Connect” promotes a new app, and it’s not as blatant as the McD’s piece. But the WaPo is old school, and BI is not; that’s why this story matters. This is the first time a major newspaper has fully incorporated sponsored content.
Let’s put it this way: branded content outgrew its learner’s permit some time ago–and this week it graduated from high school.
Does this little development mark the end of journalism as we know it? Of course not. But we will say this to any young, ambitious student thinking about a BA in journalism: Consider marketing. Or communications. Or biology. Or education. Pretty much anything but journalism will do.