The Rise of Branded Journalism

I recently had lunch with an old colleague who now runs PR at Kaspersky Lab, one of the best-known and fastest-rising anti-virus companies on the planet.

My friend told me a story that should seize the hearts of journalists even as it captures the imagination of corporate marketers; it’s a story about the rise of branded journalism.

Of course, you already know all about “branded entertainment.”  For some groundbreaking examples, look no further than Spherion Staffing’s “The Temp Life” video series or Ikea’s “Easy To Assemble” webisodes starring A- and B-list Hollywood celebs.  (Fast Company recently ran a helpful review of some of the Web’s best examples of branded entertainment.) While branded entertainment can be an expensive, hit-or-miss proposition, Kaspersky Lab has adopted a relatively low-cost, high-value approach that’s better described as “branded journalism.”

Logo-footer-threatpost_0Once upon a time, the writers and analysts who covered Kaspersky Lab as it slogged towards victory against the likes of McAfee and Symantec included Dennis Fisher at eWeek, Paul Roberts at The451 Group, and Ryan Naraine of ZDNet.  These men were among the top editors and analysts covering the anti-virus space of the day (2004–present).

Now, each and every one of these highly credentialed gentlemen produce superb content for Kaspersky Lab — as employees.  They are contributing to the Company’s well-regarded global IT Security news site, Threatpost.  With talent like Fisher, Roberts and Naraine working the levers, Threatpost is, well, a legitimate threat to the ZDNet’s, CNet’s, and SC Magazine’s of the world…

Now, to be clear, competing with those esteemed publications is not part of the agenda of Kaspersky Lab’s marketing team.  Surely they continue to seek coverage in those journals. 

However, they’re also glad to know that all of that thought leadership & always-contemporary SEO-savvy content benefits Kaspersky Lab.  It benefits their channel sales partners as well, who frequently repurpose the Threatpost content in order to motivate new conversations with prospective customers.

That’s not to imply that the content is “salesy,” however; there’s a church/state separation on the editorial side at Threatpost: subscribers are not fed into a lead-gen dbase.  No doubt that was a key factor in Fisher, Roberts and Naraine’s decision to join the Threatpost editorial team.  They now not only have the kind of job security most media professionals lack, but also can walk away from the experience someday with their reputations only enhanced by the experience.

Meanwhile, Kaspersky’s business is thriving.

Welcome to the future.

Disclosure: Kaspersky was a SHIFT client for 4 years.  We did some good work in that time — from “upstart Russian wannabe” to industry leader — as demonstrated by this Google Trends chart, which company execs very generously suggested I share with you:


Posted on: August 24, 2010 at 12:06 pm By Todd Defren
6 Responses to “The Rise of Branded Journalism”


  • Well, I think you’ve defined my job position pretty well. Started out as an editor for a trade publication, then moved into managing/editing/writing content for my employer-sponsored websites and e-newsletters. It’s still kind of a murky area for me, as I’m ultimately hoping that articles generate so much brand awareness that readers become customers.

  • I’ve been watching / writing about ThreatPost for the last 18 months. It’s thrilling to see how they’ve grown, and continue to grow, as thought leaders in the media space. What Dennis and Ryan have built over at Kaspersky is unmatched, and now with Paul on board they are even better poised to succeed. A lot of companies can take a lesson from what Kaspersky is doing in the security industry. I’m really surprised that more of this hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure it will in good time.

  • LOU HOFFMAN says:


    I think Kaspersky Lab was at the forefront of a phenomena which only accelerated from the economic downturn.

    Just look at the BusinessWeek alumni-

    Steve Hamm now writes for IBM

    Stephen Wildstrom pens a blog for Nvidia.

    And there are plenty of others from biz books and the trades such as Richard Goering formerly of EE Times now setting up shop at Cadence

    It all supports the Tom Foremski that premise that every company is a media company. If that’s true — I personally buy into it — then it’s logical to tap into the media pool for talent to improve the quality of your content.

    With that said, I don’t think journalists should be shaking in their boots over this. Readers deserve credit for being able to discern what’s a third-party perspective versus a company perspective.

  • Renee Malove says:

    It’s amazing how branded journalism has just exploded in today’s society. The question is, do you think that has more to do with the consumer’s need to have a credentialed expert guiding their purchasing decisions or simply a drive toward multi-media advertising?

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