#IN2Summit: Is Content Marketing Failing Us? 3 Ex-Journalists Say 'No'
From right: Michael Kanellos, (standing) SanDisk; Scott Lowe, Activision; Stephanie Losee, Politico; moderator Henk Campher Allison+ Partners.
The Holmes Report's Innovation Summit in San Francisco featured a panel of former journalists, now engaged on producing a broad range of editorial content for large brands, speaking on the topic of Content Marketing.
The first question was should the average person know anything about Content Marketing? They all nodded vigorously: No, because it is all about great content, and since the goal of Content Marketing is publish editorial content of substantial value then it is no different from the goals of independently produced content.
But there is a difference between the two. One is masquerading as if it isn't advertising. Surely readers should be made aware of the difference rather than everything blending into one?
[Later, during questions the panel agreed that labelling was important.]
Stephanie Losee from Politico said that things were messy in terms of distinguishing different types of content and that bad players are ruining things for everyone else. But she says things will improve because these are early days -- too early yet to say if content marketing is failing us.
Michael Kanellos from SanDisk said that with content marketing you can design the editorial content to target a specific set of people. An audience of three thousand is more relevant than a mass audience to some clients.
I've noticed that most Content Marketing fails because it is trying to produce Editorial Content but the leadership is in PR or in Marketing and so the result is marketing or PR content. It needs to be editorially led to be successful.
Scott Lowe at Activision said that at his, and other corporations, they are trying to make their editorial departments autonomous in some way.
My view is that Content Marketing is failing us and causing a lot of damage to society and to the Brands that bankroll this practice.
Content marketing, especially in the form of Native Advertising where it pretends to be legitimate third-party editorial content -- erodes trust in independent media.
A large Edelman study on Native Advertising found that it boosted perceptions of a Brand if it was seen on a trusted media site; but it did not enhance the reputation of the media site carrying the native advertising.
Brands are eroding trust in the media that carries their traditional advertising. It’s an incredibly short-sighted strategy. The bogus value of native advertising is poisoning an already confused media industry that can’t say no to bad ideas.
Many people already see all media as corrupt in some way. Content marketing is fortifying this view.
Content marketing is failing in yet another way: it's too expensive. Creating lots of high quality content is terrifically hard and tremendously expensive -- especially the way PR and Brands do it, with dozens of stakeholders involved at every stage of the production process.
There is no magic blog post or piece of content that will turn the dial on Brand awareness. Repetition is needed. It costs a lot of money and time to produce a single piece of editorial content and then you have to do it again, and again, and again.
Every company is a media company but they'd rather not be media companies because it is hard work. They will wish they could go back to the good old days when SanDisk would invite Michael Kanellos, senior reporter, on the chip industry beat at CNET News.com, to come visit and Michael might then write a story, and the boost from an independent media source was a lot better than from content on its own site.
Stephanie Losee spoke about how corporations could effectively sponsor investigative reporting at independent media publications and that trust in the Brand could help to produce trusted news.
I agree and I've said that Corporate Media could potentially win a Pulitzer Prize because Brands would only seek to publish highly trusted content otherwise it would harm their reputation. However, as Michael Kanellos pointed out, Brands are not in the business of investigative news [or winning Pulitzers].
There is a role for Brands in helping to build a thriving independent, investigative media industry -- but not through Content Marketing.
Here's some suggestions:
- Brands are buying bogus traffic from bogus publishers to bump up their numbers. At least $6 billion to as much as $16 billion annually is lost by the media industry (which calls it “Ad Fraud” and doesn’t realize it’s their money). Brands should only advertise in Real Media -- vetted publishers that employ journalists, etc.
- Programmatic ad buying means an individual publisher can't sell the merits of their title and its readership. Programmatic is problematic because content quality is not directly rewarded.
We still haven’t figured out a stable and sustainable business model for a thriving, independent media industry. Hugely important issue.
Brands should seek out media titles that are important to them and their industry and then pay extra for advertising to make sure that they are able to stay in business. It beats trying to be a media company.