TechCrunch is reporting that technology journalist Dan Lyons is leaving his job as Editor-in-Chief of ReadWrite to join the software company HubSpot. What would compel a veteran journalist (and one who often generated controversy in his industry, whether it was parodying Steve Jobs or deflating major egos) to leave the top editorial position at a popular outlet to work in-house at a technology company?
Many reasons, it turns out.
For one, the wonderful art of journalism is still in a state of decline in “traditional” media (the kind where Lyons’ writing flourished). Opportunities for talented writers like Lyons are diminishing, and many journalists would rather see their byline than run their own blog. However, brands are now generating as much content as bloggers themselves. While the in-house content is certainly very biased towards the brand and have a very specific, company-focused agenda, there’s no denying that content is now king, and every company worth their stock options recognizes this (and in no industry is this more prevalent than technology).
Like PR and advertising, journalism is reshaping itself to fit in this new, digital marketing landscape. Throw in a likely cushy paycheck and the promise of freedom and you might just see more defections.
We’ve already seen talented journalists whose work we’ve admired do what Lyons is doing, from Caroline McCarthy, formerly of CNET (lured away by Google) to Rafe Needleman, also formerly at CNET (he left for Evernote). The companies they’re choosing are savvy and content-driven, and generally quite forward-thinking.
We don’t want to see good journalists go in-house (although we welcome our arms to any talented journalist who would like to write for us! Call us!) but given the state of things, it’s not surprising that they do. What will be worth noting is how these positions go for these typically free-spirited journalists. How tight of a leash will they be kept on writing for corporate brands? How much will they have to play the corporate game? It remains to be seen, though no one has yet to jump ship. Given that most news outlets are already corporate-owned (and we’ve already seen much tension in this perilous relationship, most recently with the CBS-owned CNET), it’s not as much of a stretch as one would think.
While jobs in journalism might be waning, writing jobs for brands certainly isn’t, and marks a shift in how content is both viewed and presented.