Marketing a Story about the Silk Road Using New World Tools: A Reporter Goes on an Epic Journey


To build interest in his reporting about Ross Ulbricht - the young man whose mastery of New World tools ended in a May 29th, 2015 life sentence for founding and operating the global online drug market Silk Road - Wired writer (and author of the article that served as the source for the Academy Award winning Argo screenplay) Joshuah Bearman made a noteworthy marketing video - complete with allusions to the reporter's own hero's journey.  

Notable because, in addition to being a teaser for the dramatic story in Wired, the video culminates with an account of the reporter's own voyage of discovery. 

In other words, this marketing video isn't just about the soon-to-be-a-movie story of Ross Ulbricht - the (spreadable?) video starts by suggesting that the real world story fits into the tropes of a movie - and the Wired video then builds to a conclusion that revolves around the obstacles Mr. Bearman - the reporter - had to overcome.

There's little doubt that Joshuah Bearman's account - touching as it does on the sensational story and the difficulty of his process - is a well-thought-through marketing technique. 

I suspect it will work to tout the two-part series in Wired and the inevitable movie.

At what cost? 

Can Wired readers appreciate a heroic Joshuah Bearman as a guide (into an already deeply compelling story) without paying a price in objectivity? 

In the 21st century, will heroic writers discussing their process - accompanied by fanciful erotic and violent animated images - become the acceptable new standard for selling journalism?

Or does this form of marketing unnecessarily blur the ethical lines - implicating one of Old World journalism's basic rules

Is it OK for Joshuah Bearman to market the story by comparing the story to fiction and by becoming the center of the marketing story?

This is a tough one.

One thing's for sure, Joshuah Bearman is not your average Old World ink slinger.

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