A Great Journalism Job — And Why It Won’t Go to a Journalist

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.

Maybe that's you?

7 thoughts on “A Great Journalism Job — And Why It Won’t Go to a Journalist

  1. Hi Rick,
    I’d really like this job to be for me. I love writing. Have a journalism and communications background. I write a blog for corporate creatives because I just don’t get the chance to really write in the corporate environment (http://corporatecreatives.blogspot.com/). I love the whole social media thing and am expanding my horizons in this space through courses at New York University and teaching on the side. We’re connected in several SM circles. Drop me a Tweet if you want to chat.
    Becky Livingston


  2. Becky, your link doesn’t work.
    Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Corporate Creatives does not exist.
    The irony is hard to ignore!


  3. Rick,
    I’m betting you can find a journalist. More and more journos have their own blogs (either private blogs or ones associated with the media company they work for).
    It is YOUR job to find someone highly qualified for this role. My challenge to you is to not settle for anything but someone with the skills of a journalist.
    I think your bigger challenge will be finding someone who understands the difference between inbound marketing & outbound marketing. But you can teach that I suppose.


  4. I am not a journalist, but I have a Journalism degree and I know some people who are working in that field.
    I agree that there are journalists who do not know how the web works. They merely write their articles, submit them and then prepare to work on their next article. Because why should they worry about the intricacies of the web (or the printing press for that matter) if there are other people designated to worry about them.
    The internet has brought down most newspapers and many of them are moving their business online. Could this be a case of people not keeping up to date with the times?
    That is why there is a great incentive for those who reinvent themselves, who keep on learning new stuff. They do not go the way of the dinosaurs and just go extinct without a fight.


  5. Just came across this while researching to find the right fit to help with our company’s content marketing initiatives. We are considering hiring a journalist, and these are great points to keep in mind!
    By not knowing any journalists personally and having a passion for content marketing, it didn’t even cross my mind that a journalist may consider leaving a news org to work for a company “selling out!” I will definitely stress the production of high- quality content that educates, challenges, and informs in the job description…
    Thanks for the insight :)


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