Companies have long hired journalists for traditional public relations and marketing jobs. But the use of them to create and package what appears to be unbiased editorial content began with Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s former in-house blogger, said Rosen. Scoble, who worked for Microsoft from 2003 to 2006, gained a following for his work there as well as on his own blog, Scobleizer. Now 46, he holds a journalism degree from West Valley Community College and gets paid to produce and manage content for Rackspace, the IT hosting company based in San Antonio. “Right now I go around and interview start-up CEOs on video about their ideas and products,” said Scoble. “When I was at Microsoft I interviewed everyone from the janitor to Bill Gates.” In a similar fashion, journalists and other media people are increasingly finding new comfort zones outside of media. In May, the luxury online retailer, Gilt Groupe, lured seasoned food writer and former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl to become editorial adviser of its new food and wine e-commerce site, Gilt Taste. The site now combines online commerce and content and employs several editors and paid freelance writers.
It is all about working with an eye on commerce, not advertising. Scoble is a prime example of success in this. The idea is to assert editorial independence but work at an organization that wants to grow via the web and technology, not one that “has failed to capitalize on the ways the Internet has altered its revenue model.”