From the Founders

Contently Playbooks: Why Building a Content Stack Is Like Making a Sandwich

One of the most common mistakes brands make when tackling content marketing dates back to the beginning of mass media itself: Renaissance-era Italy and the birth of gossip newsletters. Writers would loiter in commerce centers, churches, and public squares, and then combine the news they heard into a single-page “Avviso” and print it up using the latest technology, Gutenberg’s press.

What these 16th-century Gawker writers found, however, was that by the time the Avviso about Leonardo dumping Jennifer for Angelina hit proverbial newsstands, the news was often stale. Newfangled printing technology was great, but its complexity actually got in the way of giving readers what they wanted when they wanted it.

So the Avviso writers did something counter-intuitive. They stopped using the technology and wrote newsletters by hand.


This story illustrates two important principles. First, while good technology can clearly aid publishing, it can also distract us from the real point: giving audiences what they want. If a cool new tool means that a job is harder to do—or takes longer to finish—we shouldn’t use it!

Second, the Avviso writers teach us that people are not only an integral part of a content creation—great stories need people, both creators and subjects—but they can also sub in for technology as part of a content stack.

A typical publishing operation goes through the following steps:


In marketing, stacks are often thought of as pure tech. However, each step in the content stack above can, in theory, be performed by technology or people. Now that the content marketing craze is here to stay, content tech providers are appearing like popups on a porn site, and with that comes danger of falling into the Avviso trap.

I believe that the best stacks will combine people and tech for every part of the process. In fact, that’s how we think about what we’re building at Contently.

In the meantime, brands should design their content stacks by reverse-engineering what their audience wants, and then figure out the ideal way to meet those needs. It makes no sense to blow your content marketing budget on a Snapchat War Room Analytics Suite if your audience just wants a hand-written newsletter.

In this Contently Playbooks video, I break down the mistakes people make while building their content stack, and how to do it right—all while making a sandwich. Enjoy, and don’t forget the pickles (legal/compliance).

Image by Shutterstock

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