February 15, 2013 Reactions

You Own Your Personal Brand, Rent it Out

By , under While You Were Writing. I am Community Director at Contently. I have been a reporter and editor for more than a decade, covering technology, law and crooks. Get your own contently portfolio: http://pbli.sh/tfs

Since the Dutch newspaper De Pers closed last year it’s been every reporter for herself.

And that might be a good thing for the reporters of the former newspaper. It may have been that way all along anyway.

A group of the former reporters believes that their readers were never really reading De Pers, so much as individual reporters under De Pers banner. A collective of them launched DNP, a mobile app, last year that delivers news with the reporters front and center, allowing readers to select reporters to follow and read by subscription. (Subscriptions are €1.79 a month per journalist, or €16.99 a year. Or readers can subscribe to all journalists for €4.49 a month or €37.99 a year.) Rachel McAthy offers great insight and analysis of the app and the model on Journalism.co.uk.

Former New York Times assistant managing editor Jim Roberts and Reuters made a similar bet last week when Roberts joined Reuters after taking a buyout from the Times. Reuters is betting Roberts was the brand as much as The Times and that the 80,000 twitter followers he has cultivated over the years is proof.

It is a cornerstone of Contently that reporters today own their own brand (and audience). They lease it to their employer, briefly, and take it with them when they leave. The notion is only amplified for freelancers who rent out their brand more regularly. The stronger the reporter’s brand, the greater the built-in audience, and the greater the demand will be from publishers seeking the benefit of the reporter’s readers.

Social media has become the most powerful indicator of a reporter’s brand and readership. Much was made this week about Roberts’s 80,000+ twitter followers who, left the Times with him, and are likely to follow him what ever masthead he reports for. “My [Twitter] feed is my own,” he told PaidContent.

We’ll be talking about these issues and steps journalists can take to improve their use of social media in reporting and building their careers with Conz Preti, social media editor of Univision, on Tuesday at the Freelance Writers Meetup in New York. (Signup here.)

Stepping out from behind the byline can be an alien concept for journalists who have been trained to”avoid becoming part of the story.” It might also feel tawdry to promote yourself. But we’d argue that use social media to craft a unique brand of delivering the news and communicating it to readers is proper journalism and good career advice.

(Image: Screenshot of nycjim’s profile from Twitter.)