Saturday, March 29, 2008

Media's love affair with philanthropy

Its true, media loves philanthropy, and its beginning to be vice versa, which is really good. We now have a win-win situation.

Here's an article written by Rich Polt, a commentator on the field, asking "When Will the Media Bubble Burst??" And he answers saying that it won't. Here's why...

Good news, folks! Philanthropy will remain a permanent fixture of the media universe. Here are three important reasons why (each a topic worthy of further discussion):

  1. Sex sells, and apparently so does philanthropy. Yes, it's true. The images we see and the stories we read are a direct reflection of what society demands. And in this day and age, people are all about giving. Whether driven by global disasters, technology's ability to make giving a one-to-one experience, or the financial windfalls of the '90s, everyone is interested in how they can do their part to give back. It's funny, but I never hear anyone talking about "charity" anymore. Even a gift of $25 dollars to support a friend doing a walk for cancer is now thought of as personal philanthropy. There has been a major culture shift and the media is simultaneously covering it and selling advertising against that demand. Check out Sean Stannard-Stockton's recent column in the Financial Times about "social capital markets" in the year 2033. It provides another interesting viewpoint on how philanthropy is becoming more entrenched in the fabric of our society.
  2. Philanthropists are rock stars...and rock stars are philanthropists. This cover image from Time magazine says it all. As philanthropy increasingly becomes a pastime and passion for athletes, politicians, and celebrities, the paparazzi and "personality media" will continue to infuse their reporting with coverage and images of how their subjects are giving back. Conversely, since business success coupled with giving back have become such great fodder for media coverage, we will only see more in-depth interviews and personality pieces on those who are passionate about philanthropy.
  3. Foundations are open to being open. Over the last few decades, donors and foundations have become increasingly comfortable using external communications to complement and even strengthen their giving activities. Much has been written about this already (read Joel Fleishman's recent book, The Foundation, check out this article by Bruce Trachtenberg and Grant Oliphant, or this piece that I wrote). In the old days, a newspaper would assign a private foundation story to its investigative reporter -- a reflection of how easy it was to obtain information. Today, those same stories are handled by business reporters, financial reporters, lifestyle reporters, and even (you guessed it) philanthropy reporters.
Its SO on. Cameras, keep rolling!

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