06:09 AM

Content Marketing Problems Will Lead To A Revived Media Industry

“Every company is a media company,” which is why there is a deluge of content marketing as companies struggle to produce media and build an audience.

A new media publication typically budgets at least two years to develop a solid readership and it will take years more to fully build a trusted relationship. When I interviewed Shelby Bonnie, CEO of CNET’s 10-year old News.com in 2004, he said he likely needed another ten years to fully establish the brand.

How long will it take companies to establish a media brand? 

The same amount of time as it does for a media company. It’s a reality that few organizations have fully understood.

Yet brands feel they have little choice in being media companies because the pool of journalists available to help tell their stories continues to shrink. For example, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star Ledger cut 167 jobs this week, 40 from its newsroom.

The challenges of content marketing….

- Being a media company means employing media professionals, which is what a lot of brands have done. The problem is that most content marketing is not editorially led, the journalists report to marketing bosses. It results in content that looks like marketing.

- Companies produce content at great expense but then forget about the “marketing” partContent doesn’t distribute itself how will it get to the right people?

- More than four years ago I warned about the coming media tsunami that would overwhelm all content — good and bad. So what if you started a blog or video series? How will it be seen with everyone else doing the same? Do you raise your voice to get above the noise? Then everyone else has to raise their media voice, too.

- Feeding the beast. It’s no accident that The Daily Beast is named that way because journalists know that they have to produce every day, whether they feel like it or not, The beast has to be fed and it has to be walked daily. Brands already struggle to produce small amounts of content.

- Media companies don’t write about themselves. It’s fine to produce some “about” content but most brands only produce media about themselves. Readers don’t trust such content. [Nielsen Study Finds Very Poor Performance For Branded Content -SVW]

Brands will quickly realize that the considerable challenges of content marketing are unsustainable. It’s much better to become a media company with a small “m” and let independent media companies feed the beast daily and do all the work needed to build a trusted relationship with readers.

Independent media then becomes a platform for companies to tell their stories — just as it used to be. 

Independent journalists not “brand journalists”

If we had an independent media industry, thriving and growing, there would be lots of journalists looking for stories, looking for companies to interview and profile.

Brands wouldn’t have to pretend to employ “brand journalists.”

Free speech is worthless…

If brands have been complaining about getting heard online, then individuals have no chance. Free speech is worthless if no one hears it.

Journalists have traditionally filled an important role in helping to tell the stories of individuals and communities, they provide a vocal platform for citizen views regardless of wealth. The empty space left by a shrinking media industry is being filled by media generated by special interest groups.

People won’t pay for media they should read — but special interest groups will gladly pay for the media they want them to read. 

This is a very bad situation. We have important decisions to make about the environment, energy, education, economy, elder healthcare, ecology — and that’s just the ones that begin with “e.” There’s a whole alphabet of issues that society needs to answer and where special interest groups can skew the discourse.

Who has a say in the future?

It is not, “Who Owns the Future?”, as Jaron Lanier titled his recent book but, “Who has a Say in the Future?” that matters. I don’t own my apartment but I have rights and a say in how I live in that apartment.

Techno-optimists need to also become techno-activists to make sure we get the right type of future, and not fall into a technology-enabled nightmare society, a type of North Korean Singularity from which there’s no escape.

A strong, independent media industry will be absolutely vital in making sure we all have a say in how the future is made. It’s great for brands, too.

So how do we get it? I have some ideas: Here’s a way to get billions of dollars back into the media industry.