What We’re Reading: Lord Zuckerberg, How to Define Content, and the Origin of Tom Wolfe

As of today, we’ve officially decided to retire our “Content Catchup” series. But fear not—you’ll still be able to get your fix of cute animal images and clever one-liners. Every Friday, in its place, we’ll be rounding up the best (somewhat relevant) articles we’ve read that week, with a quick summary on why we felt compelled to share them.

Since we typically don’t break news on TCS, a lot of our story ideas come from understanding how the worlds of content marketing, media, advertising, journalism, and pop culture fit together. We’re constantly sharing links in our team’s Slack channel, links that spark debates, impact what we write on TCS, and shape how we think about content marketing as a whole.

Below, you’ll find articles covering everything from the new Steve Jobs film to Tom Wolfe’s strange career path to (three!) articles about Facebook. We hope you get as much out of them as we did.

Vanity Fair: How Tom Wolfe Became Tom Wolfe

Selected by Sam Slaughter, VP of content

It’s cool and kind of inspiring to see how one of my favorite journalists got started. I love how he was totally directionless and had no idea what he wanted to do until his early thirties, and then basically had his career take off after one panic-stricken evening of writer’s block.

It’s a good lesson in working hard, but also knowing when to recognize and embrace serendipity. Make sure you read the anecdote at the end about how he got invited to the Black Panther party at Leonard Bernstein’s that launched his career. And if nothing else, Wolfe is the best example of how rocking white suits all the time is awesome.

The Hollywood Reporter: A Widow’s Threats, High-Powered Spats and the Sony Hack: The Strange Saga of ‘Steve Jobs’

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

Even though Apple seems to hate the idea of the upcoming Steve Jobs film, the movie is essentially a piece of branded content. Apple played no part in the film’s production, but judging by trailers and early reviews, it’s still going to seduce consumers on behalf of the company. Consider it high-quality promotion for the genius culture. And it turns out that the backstory about getting the production off the ground might be more dramatic than the movie itself.

This article, which goes over the intense struggle that the film’s creators had to overcome just to get it made, isn’t the type of piece that’s going to be nominated for a National Magazine Award, but I think it’s an important look at how brands wind up regretting safe choices. Not only did Apple unnecessarily distance itself from Steve Jobs, but Sony regretfully ended up passing on the project because of spats about costs, egos, and talent.

Let it be a cautionary tale to marketers and decision makers everywhere.

Ad Age: Is It Content or Is It Advertising?

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

This piece addresses one of the biggest questions rattling around my brain since I started at Contently a year ago, which is: What the hell is this whole content marketing thing anyway?

That may seem like a weird question for me to ask, but I’m confident that few people (if anyone!) can answer it definitively. And if they do have an answer, that itself is suspicious. Because after five or so years of content marketing officially being “a thing,” everyone still seems to define it in their own way. Is it advertising? Is it brand publishing? Is it just anything that resembles editorial but is actually marketing? What kind of content marketing isn’t advertising? These are surprisingly hard questions to answer.

All I know, in spite of the confusion, is that the term “content marketing” isn’t going anywhere.

Wired: Facebook Messenger: Inside Zuckerberg’s App for Everything

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, director of editorial

If you care about media, technology, or just what the Internet is going to be like in five years, this Wired profile on Facebook Messenger is a must-read.

As I explained on TV earlier this week (SHAMELESS PLUG), chat apps are everything outside the Western world: They’re how people communicate, consume media, shop, order food, bank, etc. They’re actually a super convenient way to structure the web. Chat apps haven’t taken off in the West just yet, but that’s quickly changing.

This piece does a great job of revealing Facebook’s plans for the future and how the Messenger platform could supplant mobile operating systems and app ecosystems as we know them. Get ready for Emperor Zuckerberg.

Esquire: Mark Zuckerberg Will Not Share This Story on Facebook

Selected by Shane Snow, CCO and co-founder

Tom Junod writes the best profiles of any magazine writer out there. His profile of Elon Musk a couple of years ago was awesome. This time, he deconstructs Mark Zuckerberg entirely from conversations with him on Facebook. It’s a clever bit of writing, but also a fascinating analysis of one of the most powerful—and, it turns out, boring—people in modern media.

The Atlantic: Raiders of the Lost Web

Selected by Jessica Black, marketing manager

Turns out everything on the web is fleeting. Which is good news when it comes to high school prom photos, bad news if you’re a journalist who has spent months researching a Pulitzer Prize-winning story only to watch it evaporate from space and time. Trigger warning: Do not read if the idea of your life’s work disappearing from existence upsets you.

BuzzFeed: The Personal Assistant That Will Help Facebook Eat the Internet

Selected by Esme Cribb, editorial intern

Facebook’s human-supported and supervised virtual personal assistant M is part of the Messenger “ecosystem.” It’s not just trying to change how you use the Internet—it’s trying to make the transition between interaction and instruction seamless.

Also, this tweet embedded in the piece nearly Turing’d me.

We’ll see you next Friday with a fresh batch of stories.

Image by Shutterstock

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