Content marketing is a revolutionary concept for engaging and influencing consumers. To journalists, however, content marketing is somewhat insulting to their profession.
The practice, closely tied in with native advertising, has picked up tremendously—with 2014 being called the “year of content marketing.” With this spike in popularity comes controversy. Cue the haters!
Here’s where the controversy comes from: native advertising is content that looks and feels like the content that surrounds it.
So when Buzzfeed has articles sponsored by a brand or product, the content has the same look and feel as any Buzzfeed piece, but it also includes an accompanying disclaimer and sponsor logo. The implication from these advertised pieces is that they could come off as editorials—some argue they deceptively come off this way. Regulations are designed to make sure native advertising is explicitly called out, but it’s still causing a War of the Roses-like tension between the editorial and advertising departments of publications.
The thing about content marketing is that it’s a more focused form of native advertising. Content marketing’s main purpose is to provide quality content to the user, with the hopes of turning that user into a consumer.
Where native advertising typically applies to paying publications to be featured, content marketing can be done by any business, and for basically no expense. Content marketing isn’t about media buys or advertising dollars; its strength lies in strategic and quality work produced. Granted, distribution and reach are definitely important.
The New York Times recently threw its hat into the native advertising ring—making sure its sponsored content lives up to the Gray Lady’s standards. A recent piece promotes the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. While it’s branded as a Netflix and Orange Is the New Black promotion, the content never overtly mentions the show. Rather, it’s an in-depth chronicle of incarcerated women, and the conditions they deal with—filled with videos, photos, and graphics. This piece could stand on its own as an amazing feature story. It’s a great example of both native advertising and content marketing, and it’s arguably better written than many publications.
At the end of the day, journalists need to respect content marketing for what it is—quality marketing. After all, it’s putting good writers to work in an unstable industry. As much integrity as it may take away from journalism, content marketing is giving credibility to … well … marketing. It almost acts as an antidote to pop-up ads, producing strategic and creative content that has the ability to engage the consumer instead of just crudely marketing at them.
Sure, no Woodward or Bernstein is going to come out of content marketing, but meaningful quality content can still be produced. After all, journalism and its advertising needs to adapt to the digital market—why not use content marketing to its advantage to sell “papers”?