Influencer or Journalist?

By: Donald Smith

As technology has expanded the range of professions such as marketing, advertising and public relations so has their definitions been blurred. Not many can really tell the difference between each profession anymore because they all do similar functions with the expanded technology. This is mostly seen when it comes to the use of social media.

Social-Media-Tree
[Social Media Tree] By Cision
However, the professions we’re looking at today are digital influencers and journalists. If you are part of one of these professions, you may be scratching your head in wonderment of how these two could be blurred. Well, you are not the only ones. Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum, wrote in an opinion piece for The Drum how social media influencers would not be able to replace journalists. He says this because influencers release content that is more involved with brands, such as beauty products, rather than breaking news stories similar to government ordinances and Spotlight.

Although Waddington was right in that scenario, influencers have been becoming more prevalent than reporters in other “beats” of reporting. The increase in prevalence has been most noticeable in the reporting for beauty products. It was also noticed by Rachel Strugatz, Market Editor at WWD, in this article for the Los Angeles Times. She writes about her observation on the power of a certain influencer, Arielle Charnas of Something Navy. Charnas did a review on her Snapchat about a gel mask, which was responsible for many sales. Charnas’ ability to be a figure with enough clout to move sales put her close to, if not on, the same level of beauty magazine editors and writers. After further investigation, Strugatz found that these “digital influencers” were overtaking those who had been in power for decades as consumers trust influencers more than magazines.

So the question now is, can influencers start becoming journalists, or by chance, remove journalists from the equation? This particular battle is going to be over who can truly “control” social media. The reason for control over social media is because that is where both parties are most active on nowadays. They are most active on social media for different reasons. Influencers became a force through social media, while journalist had to adapt to social media to stay true to their principle of timeliness. A journalist also uses social media for information gathering and interacting with the audience as told by Cision in their blog post. I did not include traditional media because it is not as powerful as social media is today for a large number of people as can be seen in Rooster PR’s blog post. Here are statistics from Cision on how social media has impacted the profession of journalism.

Even with everything, both influencers and journalists need to exist because they serve different functions. We may see some industries switch between the two as it is happening with beauty products. Perhaps there could possibly be a merger between the two as Mark Schaefer said in his blog, “A brand journalist.”

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