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True/Slant– Hybrid of the Future?

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When Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal, reviewed True/Slant–an online news organization started nine months ago by Lew Dvorkin, former AOL editor-in-chief—he said:

It is clear what you are getting—editorial or advertorial—a blend of journalism and social networking.”

In December, True/Slant surpassed one million unique visitors in the month and features 300 credible contributors including Miles O’Brien, formerly of CNN, and Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone.

Dvorkin’s mission is to “remain committed to the values and standards of traditional news journalism that have served the public interest so well for so long,” while giving marketers an opportunity” to be part of the news discussion.” I spoke with Dvorkin yesterday; here are highlights of our conversation.

1) Readers are interested in individual voices they trust, not in institutional brands. They also want a chance to participate in the dialogue, moderated by the True/Slant contributors. The reporters are expected to engage with those posting comments.

2) Readers prefer a point of view, not a “he said, she said” approach. “They want context and perspective….transparent and passionate voices…news reported by journalists they recognize.”

3) Journalists self-publish under their own names “in a curated network environment, to build audiences around their expertise.” The contributors must have subject-specific knowledge in industry verticals, such as Business; Science and Technology; Health; Entertainment. “We are aggregators of talent, not copy editors. Each journalist is responsible for what he/she produces and how he/she markets the content.” Dvorkin calls them Entrepreneurial Journalists. Most receive incentive-based compensation structured around the growth of their audience. Some share in the site’s revenue and others have equity in True/Slant. The contributors also choose stories from around the Web that are featured through “headline grabs.”

4) The content is organized by journalist and by topic “to enable the audience to efficiently find interesting news culled by contributors they respect.” RSS feeds push material out while T/S Suggests, a new function soon to be launched, matches reader interests with contributors and content.

5) Marketers can “offer their unfiltered view of the world” through the T/S Ad Slant, “a new kind of real-time advertorial.” The paid content is clearly labeled and “dynamically and contextually integrated throughout the site.” Marketers can also place ads on their T/S Ad Slant page, or anywhere on the site. Dvorkin said, “A company like Merck can talk about drug discovery, explain research and patents, engage with our healthcare contributors and the audience, build a community and curate the conversation with comment management tools.” BIO, the biotechnology association, is a charter advertiser.

6) Dvorkin modestly posits, “We have decided to build the New Newsroom for the digital age. On True/Slant, our T/S contributors, their audiences, marketers and featured content partners can all publish content and discuss with one another in a public and credible environment.”

The opportunity for us in PR is to work in both the free and paid sides of True/Slant. The advertorial can be the company’s view on a set of issues, updated in real time. The reader community’s participation is enhanced with links and cross-references to bloggers or journalists in mainstream media. And we can help reporters with their stories, particularly news not getting space elsewhere. This is a venture worth supporting.

  • Bruce Garfield

    Thanks not only for your perspective on True/Slant, but for bringing it to my attention. I am now enjoying its’ voice.

  • http://www.edelman.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1038 Stephanie Romano

    In my own personal opinion, True/Slant is the best of both worlds: a blend of communication with the public and responsible journalism. We live in a society today that is based on interactive media. Everyone has an opinion on everything, and each individual is not afraid to publicly display these opinions, both positive or negative, on the Internet by means of social media and blogging. However, True/Slant gives us, as public relations professionals, a chance to give our opinions to the interested public and maybe even get a fresh point of view, or see something we overlooked, and make adjustments accordingly and increase out successes. I think the quote by Dvorkin about the mission of True/Slant is evidence enough that this is a credible endeavor in which each public relations professional should be involved. We will finally have an outlet to describe what an organization is doing, or what they are all about, in depth and get almost instant responses. This will be extremely helpful for other professions as well, especially marketers. Not only does it benefit organizations and businesses, however, it will be a wise opportunity for educated individuals to see the opinions of their favorite journalists firsthand. I think that you are right, that we should work in both the free and paid sides of True/Slant, and you make a very valid point that we can help reporters get publicity and attention for stories that may still be of public interest but not getting space elsewhere. True/Slant is a great opportunity and blend of social media and journalism and would be a great outlet for many organizations in this digital age we live in today.

  • http://www.strategicguy.blogspot.com Marc Hausman

    Here is more of a message to you, rather than a comment to this particular blog post.

    Many congrats on Edelman’s recent selection by AdWeek Magazine as PR agency of the year. For a future blog post, I’m very interested in your thoughts about this comment from the article about you:

    “…whose entrepreneurial spirit and hands-off management style are applauded by his staffers. While he holds people accountable for success, he encourages risk.”

    That’s quite a balance you have been able to find — hands off management, encouraging risk and establishing accountability.

    Any thoughts or tips would be great.

  • vox

    Thank you for this. As a student of international relations, a successful corporate executive, and a fan of the insights provided by the Trust Barometer, I hope to engage you in a conversation regarding next generation PR. After the seismic shift ushered in by the global financial crisis, and the current intellectual one that followed in its aftermath, I believe the PR industry is well positioned to equip a new generation of leaders (political, corporate, not-for-profit, civic) with the necessary understandings of this new and complex era for continued success. A colleague and I have written a manuscript which outlines this new world. I believe Edelman would have a unique market position to benefit from this insight and continue to lead in the future in the manner that it has done so in the past. I would be delighted to share and/or discuss with you or any one at your firm, this tremendous opportunity. Thank you in advance.

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