At work right now I'm spending most of my time trying to find somebody to fill an amazing job.
I'm looking for somebody to take the HubSpot blog, which we've built from 5,000 subscribers to over 20,000 subscribers in the past year, and make it into a small business media property bigger and more respected than anything else out there.
This would be an amazing opportunity for a journalist. In a world of shrinking headcounts and budgets, this is a utter anomaly. It's an opportunity to build a new type of media company — and to have the full support of an organization with momentum and resources.
But I'll be surprised if we end up hiring a journalist for the job.
I want to, it's just that I'm worried about three basic problems with hiring journalists for marketing content jobs:
(1) Most journalists don't believe businesses can produce high-quality content. The traditional view is that businesses can only produce biased advertorial content. The idea of leaving a news organization to go work at a company like HubSpot is summed up in two words: selling out. Few can get beyond this dogma to see that businesses now have an incentive to produce high-quality content. Or that the hundreds of thousands of people who consume HubSpot's content love it, and are using it to build their businesses and their livelihoods. (I am proud of that.)
(2) Most journalists avoid the business side of publishing. The news industry tends to keep its business and editorial teams separate. We don't have that distinction at HubSpot. The person we hire to manage our blog needs to be a writer, an editor and a product manager. Most journalists will look at that model and say it's a recipe for biased, low-quality content. In fact, it's one of the few new models of content production that's financially viable. We need a single individual who can churn out thoughtful how-to posts about online marketing — and assess those posts to make sure they're attracting leads for our paid product.
(3) Many journalists don't understand the physics of the web. Because of the extreme division of labor at big news organizations, many journalists don't understand how content moves across the web. They pump their copy into a production line, then go home. They never see how it drives search engine referrals, or travels across the social web. It's impossible to build a media company today without a deep, intuitive understanding of these forces.
Of course, these are generalizations. I know plenty of journalists who display one or more of these qualities. But as a hiring manager (and a former journalist) with one chance to hire the right person, I'm wary of somebody with a background in news.
Of course, I'd love for somebody to prove me wrong. I'd love for some great writer and story teller who's had it with the news business, to embrace the approach to content we're taking, wrap his or her head around the business of content and develop an intuition for the viral nature of the web.