A Special T/S Milestone: Introducing a New Model for Advertisers
Just eight short months ago, True/Slant launched its Alpha product and a new model for journalism.
We were a very small team back then (actually, we still are), embarking on a mission: to help lead change in the business we love. We understood the digital age demanded bold new thinking, but we remained committed to the values and standards of traditional news journalism that have served the public interest so well for so long.
On April 8, we put easy-to-use tools in the hands of 65 knowledgeable and experienced contributors so they could self-publish under their own names and brands in a curated network environment. These “Entrepreneurial Journalists” began to build audiences around their expertise and to directly engage with news enthusiasts and each other. Today, True/Slant has a distributed news force of 250 contributors who provide information and insight across a broad array of topics. They include traditional and digital journalists, bloggers, authors, academics and experts, all with topic-specific news credibility. We plan to add 250 more in the next months, then go from there.
We’re thrilled to report that True/Slant’s audience has also grown rapidly, to more than 800,000 monthly unique visitors.
More than ever, consumers want news of interest to them filtered by individuals they trust. They want context and perspective. Today’s news consumers appreciate transparent and passionate voices — and tend to ignore, often even distrust, monolithic ones. On True/Slant, news users can follow their favorite contributors, get alerts about their posts and much more. Most important, news enthusiasts can participate in a uniquely rewarding dialogue that is moderated by T/S contributors themselves.
All along the way, we said we wanted to add different types of credible voices to the mix in a fully transparent way. Today, True/Slant has achieved that goal.
Marketers have always sought more effective ways to be part of the news discussion — and to talk about their companies or their industries. On True/Slant, they can now offer their unfiltered view of the world through the T/S Ad Slant, a new kind of real-time advertorial. They can speak to both thought leaders and consumers and join the news conversation.
T/S Ad Slant content is always clearly labeled as such, and it is dynamically and contextually integrated throughout our site – on Live Topic Streams, in blocks of related posts, most popular posts, most recommended posts or most talked about posts, in Search and in many other places as well. The True/Slant audience can follow a brand itself, or a brand’s individual contributors, just like they can follow T/S editorial contributors. T/S Ad Slant content can also be editorially selected and manually promoted. We’re excited that our first three T/S Ad Slant Partners are Ooma, a provider of free telephone service; BIO, a biotechnology trade organization based in Washington, DC; and WebTrends, an Internet analytics and services company.
Great sites across the Web with high quality editorial content always seek to find new audiences. They, too, can have a presence on the True/Slant Network. Their posts will also be editorially and dynamically integrated just like T/S Ad Slant content. We’re thrilled that Snagfilms, a documentary film site, and BuzzMedia, a publisher of pop culture sites, have kicked off our Featured Content Partner program.
With the launch of T/S Ad Slants and Featured Content Partner pages, True/Slant offers a consumer news experience unlike any other on the Web. On True/Slant, our T/S contributors, their audiences, marketers and featured T/S Content Partners can all publish content and talk to one another in a credible news environment and as participants in a social news stream. They all use the same T/S tools. They all are identifiable players in the curated T/S news process. They’re all on the True/Slant content platform.
This is an exciting time for journalism, one that is certainly not without pain. Many of the elite traditional news organizations I once worked for over a 35-year career are laying off hundreds — perhaps soon to be thousands — of talented people. The reasons are quite simple. As more news is consumed online, the economics of Web advertising just don’t support yesterday’s bureaucratic and bloated newsrooms. Of course, many would just rather blame Google for all their woes. Why not? It’s certainly a nice rich target. At True/Slant, we’re decided to build “The New Newsroom” for the digital age.
Digital media stalwarts are under duress as well. Aol is lopping off 2,500 employees, a third of its work force. And that comes after years of retrenchment. I worked at Aol for eight challenging years, rebuilding the news and sports channels, programming the home page and helping to launch TMZ.com. I took part in the annual holiday ritual of telling people they no longer had jobs. Eventually, Yahoo suffered the same fate.
As digital journalism evolved, I always tried to be part of innovation (a smart Aol colleague, now also gone, once called it “leaning into change”) while recognizing the importance of the past. Perhaps that’s why the news out of Aol last week makes my traditional-media-turned-digital-media head spin. As outlined in The Wall Street Journal, Aol plans to mass-produce news articles and possibly “advertorials” using algorithms tied to popular Web searches, assigning articles to freelancers and compensating them based on what advertisers will pay to be next to such content.
I’ve been in journalism a long time. I’ve seen how ratings systems have skewed television news coverage. I shudder to think what “search ratings” could do to online news. And, I can’t even begin to fathom the “editorial” process or the ethical guidelines needed to vet the freelancers producing such advertising-supported content.
At True/Slant, our T/S Ad Slants are digital versions of advertorials, paid-for advertising content that is written, edited and produced by the marketers themselves. With a T/S Ad Slant, a marketer, just like a T/S contributor or a T/S Content Partner, can fully participate in a credible news environment. In real time, a marketer can self-publish content about itself or its industry, build a community around its views and lead or join a moderated dialogue throughout the True/Slant network. Most important, a marketer’s T/S Ad Slant is fully transparent to the consumer and it is clearly labeled as marketing content in the nearly unlimited number of places it can appear throughout our news network.
True/Slant is all about credibility, knowledge, transparency, authenticity and intimacy. We have many goals:
– To empower knowledgeable and experienced contributors to easily produce original content.
– To enable the audience to efficiently find relevant and interesting news culled by contributors they respect.
– To blur the line between the “Entrepreneurial Journalist” and the audience by hosting a curated, lively and civil conversation.
– To point audiences to stories and videos across the Web, respecting the intellectual copyrights of the original content creators.
– To give a voice to corporate marketers that is fully transparent and labeled, maintaining the integrity of the conversation.
We’re all very proud to have completed the first phase of our goals. Please let us know what you think. You are a vital voice on the T/S Network.
If you are an individual content creator interested in becoming a T/S contributor, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a marketer interested in the T/S Ad Slant, please contact us at email@example.com.
If you are a content site interested in the T/S Featured Content Partner program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.