Amos tries to identify topics where the interests of the consumer and the brand overlap.

After initial meetings, Freshwire develops a style manual, an editorial calendar and workflow chart to clarify who must give approval for new content. Then production begins much the same way as at a newspaper or magazine.

Most of Freshwire’s content is editorial, including daily stories for websites, Facebook pages or e-mail newsletters. For example, it might produce an informative article about how a company sources its raw materials and why that is changing. Or it could create a series of advice pieces that would incorporate a client’s products.

The company often augments its editorial output with video such as a product launch demonstration or a speech by an executive.

Freshwire charges a retainer between $10,000 and $50,000 a month, depending on the amount of content needed by a client. Extras, such as video reportage of an event, are billed on top of the retainer.

Logical response

Gabriel Kahn, a professor at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism with a focus on media economics, said Freshwire is a logical response to two trends: consumers spending more time online and advertisers who are frustrated with the diminishing returns of traditional TV advertising. But he’s not sure if Freshwire’s journalistic approach will really separate it from competitors.

“Every advertising agency will be doing this in the near future,” Kahn predicted. “It’s going to be a crowded space.”

Amos said a lot of his competitors are gimmicky technology firms trying to automate the process of content creation instead of performing hard work.

“They have a platform that allows you to type in keywords and find a writer for your blog, or scrape the Web and aggregate content on a subject,” he said. “But Freshwire is a decidedly human endeavor. Starting and sustaining conversations is better left to a custom-built team of real storytellers than to technology.”

Both Kahn and Amos believe traditional journalism will survive online, but Amos thinks the lines between advertising, public relations and journalism will blur, giving rise to new types of content.

“There will always be a need for compelling content and people who can create it, whether it’s for a cable TV channel or a food company,” he said.

A client recently showed Amos a picture on the company’s Facebook page of a girl wearing a dress made from wrappers of the company’s product. But there was no information about the girl’s name, where she lived, if she gave permission to use the photo or why she made the dress.

“No one was thinking how to make a story from it,” he said. “It’s part of a trend where all companies find themselves having to sustain 24-7 conversations online, and the sheer scope of the work makes it unmanageable in-house.”

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