Saturday, April 30, 2016

Brand Journalism and Frank Lampard

The death of newspapers isn't only about the physical paper. The paper created a news economy that was able to stand separate from the entities and topics they covered. The paper was an entity in and of itself. From the highest levels of Washington DC to high school coaches - the old press was something you had to work with, in and around.

That position of power is gone now. Filling the void is Brand Journalism. What is it? Well, first off - hopefully, you are not asking that question... second off; you probably have a few tabs open on your browser right now that are filled with it. Or, more likely, just scrolled past a brand journalist on your Twitter and Facebook feed.

Sitting right in front of me is a copy of the latest Sports Business Journal. A rag that falls somewhere between trade magazine and smarmy marketing arm for the industries it covers. It's possibly the pinnacle of brand enhancement.

The trick to all this is to blur the line between journalism and marketing. It's a hustle. Cash in on hundreds of years of independent journalism and turn it into propaganda.

Major League Soccer is entirely made of this type of journalism. The small size and relative newness of the league put it right in brand journalism's wheelhouse. The older and more established leagues don't need to use it as much, their place firmly established in the American lexicon via decades of honest dealings with fans. Mostly due to... independent journalism.

A perfect example of how MLS employees brand journalism is, well, happening as these words are typed. The situation with Frank Lampard.

Lampard has mostly been in the shadows this year but a quick search of his name on Google News turns up a recent crop of frustrated "news" pieces that sort of shame him. "Worst MLS signing in league history," type stuff. Each of them hitting the same notes. Each using the same quoted Tweets.

None of them actually talking to Frank Lampard or his people.

Make no mistake. This is the League talking. They are frustrated with their $6 million dollar a year player who is seemly taking a nice New York vacation in the twilight of his career. Anyone would be, right? But, there is is a certain level of dishonesty with how this is being handled. The league is communicating with fans, through the "press," to put pressure on Lampard to play.

Where was this weeks ago? NYCFC is already eight games in and fans are just now getting a blast of samey articles? What gives? Well, I'll tell you. MLS is not happy. A couple Tweets later and we've gone form a Telegraph story about the "WORST SIGNING IN MLS HISTORY," to Reddit users dusting off "Fat Lampard" jokes to top 10 worst signings in history. Meanwhile, thinking people will respond to most of all this with "no shit."

This Lampard situation is a disgusting example of brand journalism eating itself. These folks lapped up the signing a couple years ago with little, to no, critical thought. From there, they rode the click-bait train when he remained on loan with Manchester City after promising to come to NY.

It took almost an entire calendar year for him to finally play for NYCFC and now he's basically done.

Competitively, Lampard was one of the worst signings in league history the moment MLS signed him. The brand journalists knew this but they stayed on narrative. It's the way it's done now. Clicks and likes. A scripted soap opera instead of a series of actual events happening, bereft of thinking or honest individuals.

Know what? I hope Frank Lampard is sitting there collecting his half million a month soccer severance package (that is coming via Soccer United Marketing) with a giant smile on his face.

This isn't on him like they want you to believe. MLS were the ones that signed him. It's their cockamamy rules that allow this to happen. They created this monster and now they are trying to slay it with the same methods they used to create it.

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