By Yonatan Gordon
It is the biggest topic in journalism today. Is a news service or writer telling the truth? Is he or she biased or honestly reporting the news in a “fair and balanced” way?
While this question is well-known, what is not so well known is that this hot button topic shares the same mind-space as a new model for marketing called Native Advertising.
On the surface, Native Advertising is intended to describe an advertiser that uses more natural means to advertise their product. For instance, an article from TheNextWeb.com entitled “The rise of native advertising: Fine or farce?” details all the various “native” ways advertisers use to sell you things.
But before waxing philosophical on whether an advertisement could ever be considered “native,” let’s introduce another question. This one came to mind after reading a piece from Mashable.com called “Why This Is the Age of Publishers, Not Journalists.” The article is about journalists who create a name and following for themselves, especially by means of social media, then leave their jobs in order to begin their own start-ups.
Not So Native
Initially when thinking about Native Advertising, it appears that there are two categories of content writers:
- Staff writers
- Content producers working on behalf of advertising clients
But when you start drilling down further, what really separates a staff writer who is positioning themselves for a career of independence and a writer for an advertising agency who overtly operates as an independent entity?
Buying and Selling
If we take the example of a bride and groom, who is the buyer and who is the seller? The simple understanding is that the bride is selling, while the groom is the buyer. If we look at the Almighty and the Jewish people, God is known as the One who “buys everything.” God is above (buying is higher consciousness). But, for God to be able to buy everything, we have to be willing to sell everything, all of ourselves.The meaning of the bride here is she doesn’t leave herself anything. This is true self‐sacrifice. So someone who feels himself to be something, he sells himself and at that moment feels like nothing. The being below, the bride, has to be able to decide that she is giving herself entirely to the nothingness above. But, the being Above is that which buys everything.
How does this relate to our present discussion? Let’s assume for a moment that everyone providing content is trying to sell something. For instance, maybe they are selling the public to buy into their future career as an independent journalist. Given the above, what is conceptually problematic is not that they are selling themselves, but that they aren’t given themselves over to something higher. In Native Advertising parlance, they appropriately phrase this idea in terms of the reader: Is the content comes from a staff writer or advertiser benefiting the reader or not?
But what we are now adding is that in order to benefit the reader, the content provider has to “sell themselves” to be bought buy a higher consciousness. This means that the most prized content, the most “native,” comes from those who sell themselves over to the Source of the content.
As long as articles are self-oriented, then the content feels like an advertisement no matter who it comes from. The ideas may sound beneficial at first, but they will quickly appear fleeting and elusive. But when married to a higher consciousness, then even if the content was written on behalf of an advertiser, the reader will still feel like the content is “native.”
In a desire to be uplifted to a higher consciousness, the public is willing to listen to whoever will bring them to this state. No longer does the influence of media conglomerates win out over this concept behind reader engagement. But while media outlets, journalists and advertising agencies are all theoretically on equal footing, the second lesson from our discussion is that the message needs to be authentic.
Inherent in this discussion is the nothingness required to give oneself over. Like the Jewish people (bride) who gives their “something” over in order to marry God (groom), the most authentic or native content comes from those writers who become nothing in order to give their readers everything; a glimpse into a higher consciousness.
The rise of Native Advertising is a sign of the public’s yearning to find information that is connected to God, the source of all content. But in order to be an authentic, content writers should view their task as brides vested with the task of connecting readers with the higher, Divine consciousness behind the content they are now presenting. This also indicates that instead of “native advertising,” the term “conscious journalism” may soon replace it. .
As explained in “Nine Steps Toward Engaging a Community of Readers,” consciousness, the sefirah of knowledge (da’at), is the first of nine steps in engaging readers. From consciousness, the second stage is the sefirah of foundation (yesod), the verification process of the first level.
From the above, we can end with how this article began, with the headline, “The Search for Authentic Journalism.” The search begins with the desire among the journalist to elevate the reader to a higher level of consciousness. But the seal is the seal of truth and authenticity found at the second level of foundation (yesod).
With material adapted from Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh’s recent class at the Torat Hanefesh (School of Jewish Psychology) semester seminar, 26 Shevat 5774. The unedited English translation can be viewed HERE.