The Secret Behind Top Brand Newsrooms

by Rakhal Ebeli @rakhalebeli

What’s the secret to successful, high impact brand newsrooms? In a word: freelancers. Look behind the doors of top brand newsrooms and you will no doubt find a team of freelancers enabling the delivery of high quality content, be it as editors, writers or photographers.

These hybrid newsrooms leverage the familiarity of an in-house team with the experience of a freelance journalist, producing content to scale and allowing more efficient use of a brand’s resources. While the precise balance of freelance and in-house staff varies depending on the needs of each brand, what is constant is the value a freelancer brings in facilitating the smooth running of a brand newsroom.

Fresh perspective

Freelancers have long been used in the publishing industry as a source of new ideas. In the US, 75 per cent of magazine editorial content comes from freelancers and in the European Union, freelancers represent 22 per cent of the arts and entertainment sector.

 In brand publishing, freelancers can also give a fresh perspective to brand stories, offering unique story concepts that come from real world experience. Whether it’s about a Coca-Cola-themed wedding, a Levi’s-obsessed denim mender or a photographic journey to Coober Pedy for Crumpler, great, left-of-centre ideas often come from the outside.

Talent resource

While brand journalism has been widely touted as the future of content marketing, not all brands may have the resources to build a nimble in-house newsroom. Scribewise marketing expert John Miller argues, “Most marketing disciplines – and their practitioners – simply do not have the built-in agility a newsroom demands.”

This is where freelancers can help. For time-poor marketing teams, freelancers provide flexibility and perspective. The quality of freelance work is also arguably much higher. We are living in a time when Yahoo! Can lure the likes of Times political correspondent Matt Bai and former tech columnist David Pogue. Clearly, there is no lack of talent. Top brand newsrooms have taken advantage of this. By drawing on experienced freelancers, they maintain a high standard of quality and allow their in-house team to focus on brand strategy and innovation.

 Finding balance

The top brand newsrooms have achieved the perfect composition of in-house and freelance talent. According to PublishThis founder Matthew Kumin, “the key is a combination of original content writers, in-house curators who know your brand intimately, and outsourced curation contributors who broaden perspective.”

Finding the ideal formula is matter of assessing a brand’s resources. The team from Newsweek suggests companies ask themselves, “How much can you produce and how much can you curate? What resources are better spent on content rather than personnel (contributor pieces, sponsored posts, partner organizations, syndicated material)?”

In other words, does the cost of curating outweigh the cost of creating? The question ultimately comes down to manpower and time. The most successful brand newsrooms understand where to put their resources and when to look for freelance support.

Building a hybrid newsroom

Every brand has a unique set of tools with which to build a brand newsroom. Where a niche tech company may prefer the expertise of an in-house staff, a youth fashion label may engage more readers with contributed content.

To help find the perfect balance, consider the following:

  • Take stock of editorial assets
  • Analyse time/resource distribution
  • Weigh up value of outsider perspective