Disappointing that Putin chose the NY Times for his op-ed, instead of @Medium
— FakeJeffJarvis (@ProfJeffJarvis) September 12, 2013
The New York Times has just published an op-ed from Russian President Vladimir Putin, “A Plea For Caution From Russia,” urging the American government (and public) to avoid military action against Syria.
The above tweet is a joke, from a parody ‘thinkfluencer’ Twitter account — but it no doubt mirrors the serious thoughts of many a media futurist. After all, aren’t we supposed to be in the Age of the Personal Brand? Where Andrew Ross Sorkin and Nate Silver’s bylines hold more cache then the entire New York Times masthead?
Putin’s name on the op-ed is in small font, just like all other contributor names. Unless you were specifically looking for his byline, you might miss it in the top-right of the front-page. And yet this piece will garner several million hits over the next few days — the kind of traffic most developers only dream about.
That’s the game of content, driven by blockbusters and big-swings. But the game of ‘brands’ is played, day-in and day-out, by the obscure beat reporters who fact-check, cultivate sources and build trust with readers.
Without the brand — the 1,100+ newsroom journalists who keep The Times spinning — Putin may as well have published the letter on his personal WordPress account, and let the Western press translate and re-run as they please.
One of Putin’s primary points in the op-ed is the danger of American exceptionalism — he notes that, “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” The same can be said for online publishers; when it comes down to it, all you have is your credibility.
Some, like TechCrunch, are quick to lose sight of the big picture; that’s when you begin to see embarrassing gaffes, needless boosterism and egregious conflicts-of-interest.
Others, like The Times, just do their job — adapting to digital culture while still aggressively maintaining independence and integrity. And that’s why they win. That’s why they can still call themselves a “newspaper” instead of a “platform.”
*For more nuance on the Syria situation, try this BuzzFeed article on for size: “Obama Asks The Hill To Bomb Syria, As Explained By ‘The Hills.'”