Interview with Melanie Deziel/Beat Shift
This week, I interviewed Melanie Deziel, current leader of MDeziel Media and former editor of TBrand works. The interview was incredibly informative, as Melanie explained the new trend of content marketing/native advertising, and why it works so well.
Prior to the interview, I scrolled through Melanie's website to get a better sense of how she spends her time and exactly what MDeziel media does. The most recent blog post involved an infographic explaining the amount of traveling she does--she broke 100,000+ miles in one year. Our fast-paced interview, with ringing police sirens and beeping taxis regularly interjecting, added to her typical New Yorker persona: busy as hell and all over the place.
Melanie started at TBrand media, and from what I understand essentially started it. When she began doing sponsored articles, the branded content agency TBrand hadn't been clearly defined as its own entity, rather it was just a couple of journalists within their massive organization that were commissioned to do this piece. Her groundbreaking one, and one which I think is the best example of this kind of marketing, is an investigation on conditions in women's prisons for the Netflix show Orange is the New Black, which can be found here.
We spoke about why this form of marketing works: she believes that for the first time, companies are offering customers value in th eform of media, not just valuable product. as long as conusmers identify the media as sponosred, if it's good media, the idea is that people wont be all that bothered. Deziel says that the goal is for a reader to get through the end of the piece and then realize it was sponsored by Netflix, say, at the end, and think "wow, that wasn't so terrible."
In terms of the blurry lines between the editorial staff of a media company and the branded content staff, she argues that they have almost no contact. She also believed that branded content didn't compromise the integrity of the paper any more than paid advertisements did, which papers have been doing for centuries.
As insightful as the interview was though, and as much as I loved to learn about this, I am questioning the lack of a real human component, the NY character aspect. I'm not sure if in this beat about a discipline, a practice of marketing, there is really a human story to be told. However, given that I want to remain in the business sphere, I am considering slightly shifting gears.
Melanie and I were talking about the extent to which this method of marketing is useful for a business starting out, despite what the major proponents of content marketing assert (they undyingly believe it is). After all, it involves long investigative pieces, hours of multimedia editing (i.e. for infographics, videos) and other forms of media creation, all of which is costly in both time and money. And even if a company created this media and got it published on their own page, they'd probably find it difficult to have any sort of readership (sans companies like OutBrain that stick content as an annoying ad at the bottom of an article) without paying for prime space in a publication like the New York Times? This got me thinking that perhaps I could investigate start ups themselves.
The practice of launching startups in New York is so common that its become its own "culture," where New York is sometimes referred to as "Silicon Alley" With a beat like this, I'd be able to report on the narrative that involves sleepless hard work, serendipitous ideation, and fruitful innovation. Here, there are human stories of these peoples' success as well as their unique embrace of failure (some take pride in every failed company). I think these kind of genius visionaries who quit their jobs in the hope of growing the next "unicorn" (a startup that becomes incredibly successful, i.e. Uber) are worth writing about, and I don't believe that many people are reporting or reflecting on the culture in New York itself, even though it's increasingly becoming a more major part of the world economy. I imagine a beat that involves red-eyed, coffee addicted young adults working endlessly for that "aha" breakthrough moment in their development. I want to capture the child-like excitment of grown men as they make it to the next round of funding, of a hopeful dream becoming reality when CEOs present for VCs. There's excitement in the journey these people are taking, and I want to get a readership on board.
I think my interview with Melanie Deziel might be a good background voice that shed lights on how these people can grow/what tactics people are using, in conjuction with a startup CEO that might discuss what her/his marketing strategy is.
In terms of access, I'll have no issue. I'm the VP of an NYU club (TAMID) where students consult for startups, and tomorrow and next week (Sunday the 19th and Monday the 26th) I'm attending startup fairs. I can get the number of virtually anyone there, and they'll undoubtedly be thrilled to get any kind of media attention. I'm confident I can get an interview this week and have story by next week (when story 1 and 2 are due). I have two close friends launching tech startups themselves. I'm going to try to diversify the kinds of startups that I'm going to interview, and see how they differ/how their stories differ.
I'm much more confident in a beat like this, and I see real potential for a successful, NY character-type story.