There is a revolution taking place in the world of advertising called “content marketing.” For those interested in a good overview, read this recent piece from the Harvard Business Review. In short, instead of expensive billboards and display ads, advertisers are shifting their focus to content. To quote from the article:
“Brands are no longer merely peddling products; they’re producing, unearthing, and distributing information. And because they do, the corporation becomes not just economically important to society, but intellectually essential as well.”
Before I explain how content marketing relates to journalism and politics, let’s first mention another article– a Forbes piece is about two Israel-based start-ups, Outbrain and Taboola. The full article is here, but I would like to once again quote one brief section:
“The interesting thing here is that both companies have convinced huge content creators, like The New York Times, CNN, and Time that it is worthwhile to link people off their site. Think about that? They are linking people to other content sites.”
Now on the surface it may appear that the Harvard Business Review and Forbes articles are speaking about two different aspects of content marketing. First there are the product peddlers who are awakening to the importance of information. Then there are content creators like The New York Times whose primary job it is to peddle information. Just now instead of directing visitors to banner ads, they are sending viewers off their site to read worthwhile articles elsewhere.
But the first glance reading of these two stories is missing something most profound. In order to appreciate what is happening here some more, we should first mentioned that–as noted in the Harvard Business Review article–big-name companies are now hiring top-talent journalists.
To quote again from this article:
“When it’s done right, brand publishing encourages companies to mine internal resources and expertise in order to become intellectual agents. Today, large corporations are becoming their own media companies, news bureaus, research universities, and social networks.”
What am I getting at? That the battle being waged on the information superhighway is now focused on answering one question: Which content provider is most likely to have the most worthwhile answers related to my interests?
Why doesn’t The New York Times, CNN and Time mind that you are clicking away from their site? Because you began on their site. And if you began on their site, even though you later clicked away from it, the likelihood is that you will go back to that initial hub site the next time around.
But this logic is also similar for why brands are now hiring top-talent journalists. When Tesla Motors hired technology journalist Hamish Mckenzie it was an effort to become more of a source for genuine and compelling content about electric cars. The fact that Hamish now works for Tesla, and that presumably his articles will now be about Tesla cars and technology, is a secondary consideration. Of primary importance is whether the public views Hamish’s writing to be authentic and genuine. And if Tesla does manage to produce the most genuinely sounding news stories about electric cars, then they have already done more than any amount of billboards or display ads could hope and accomplish.
The Content Revolution
Let’s think about the “content marketing revolution” title used for the headline of the Harvard Business Review article quoted above. When we conceptualize these words, we realize the discussion hinges on who is viewed as the center of the “content solar system”? While there are many websites that provide news, each one hopes to be the “hub” for the others.