Traditional journalism is dead, just ask the internet.

Exploring digital journalism’s place in a social media market

Ellie Munford
4 min readDec 23, 2020

Journalism has shifted to new platforms to create a new structure for disseminating information both quickly, but also more specifically than ever before.

Despite traditional media outlets moving online, they still maintain their solid grip on the minds and views of the public they serve. Because of this, they play a pivital role in the modern age of digital marketing and social media influencers. The profile of a digital journalist has the power to make dents in a brand’s image through the stories they write since social media makes it easier than ever to share opinions with links and images so news travels quickly to a mass audience. This negative media attention from journalists posting to social media is then picked up by media savvy users with a large following, who have the resources to turn this bad press into a ‘trend’ or a ‘meme’ which can circulate for months despite the original story being ‘old news’.

2017 Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner

One major example of this is the 2017 Pepsi advert featuring one of the world’s most famous models from one of the world’s most famous reality families, Kendall Jenner. In the advert, Kendall joins a cheery and joyful protest march (a far cry from the often refractory demonstrations seen all over the world) and grabs a can of Pepsi. At the adverts climax she confronts a calm wall of officers and hands one of them the can. He takes a sip and everybody cheers. Critics of the advert were quick to accuse Pepsi of trivialising a global political movement and for appropriating racial protests in order to sell a fizzy drink. Subsequently there was enormous media backlash with major news outlets and independent journalists covering the story, resulting in Pepsi removing all content and issuing several apologies; including one to the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ms. Bernice King. Featuring a well-known influencer or celebrity in a marketing campaign is guaranteed to raise the brand’s profile but this also opens them up to elevated levels of comment, especially when it flops. Due to all the journalistic criticism online, social media users with a following of their own began making memes highlighting Pepsi’s ignorance of racial issues which, of course, went viral and created huge issues for Pepsi’s reputation, as well as Kendall Jenner’s. CEO of YouGov, Ted Marzelli wrote that ‘it took nine months for Pepsi’s perception to fully recover with millennials from the ad’s backlash’ and that Pepsi’s perception level was ‘the lowest it had been in at least eight years.’

An established journalist’s direct connection with consumers and social media users through platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram mean that their profiles and their stories can generate huge interest. Had online journalists not sparked the issue in the first place by posting their opinion to a newspaper column instead of to social media pages, it is likely that other influential social media users would not have picked up on the story and caused as much backlash for the brand and the influencer in the way that it did.

Not only have we seen how digital journalists have the ability to frame public opinion on influencers and brands, but perhaps they are so successful at this because they have an already established group of readers interested in the topics they write about. Independent online journalists are able to target specific areas of concern through niche-specific reporting. Their followers may only be interested in information relating to sports, politics or local affairs which means by following that specific journalist, they get news tailored to their interests straight to their newsfeed.

Generally speaking, journalists will have studied and received relevant qualifications enabling them to deliver high-quality and accurate content. They are expertly skilled in using and refining language to convey a colourful and engaging story to maintain consistency and help develop a relationship of trust between the reader and the journalist. This layer of trust is especially useful for brand managers wanting to lean on the following of a digital journalist to promote their products who would otherwise have had to earn it off their own back.

Professional content, compelling stories and a loyal following are just a few reasons why digital journalists have the power and the reach to contend with social media influencers in changing the face of social media marketing.



Ellie Munford

Blogger | Conversationalist | Feminist | Digital journalism should be your primary source of news — Change my mind?