Storytelling

Content Marketing in the Media Apocalypse

I first joined Contently as editor-in-chief in 2013. I stumbled into content marketing because the media company I was running failed—in part because the economics of media are ridiculously hard, but mostly because I was 25 and had no idea what I was doing.

Failing at media in 2013 was easy but avoidable; in 2019, it feels inevitable. The past year brought massive layoffs at Gannett, BuzzFeed, AOL, HuffPost, Spin, The Toronto Star, and countless others. Deadspin was assassinated by a private equity vampires; Sports Illustrated was turned into a content farm. And just this past week, IAC basically dumped College Humor on the side of the road and drove away.

We’re entering an age in which some of the best-funded content operations are being run by brands. Their mastheads topped by content marketers.

Content marketing and journalism will always be distinctly different things. (And as citizens, we need to fund journalism. Subscribe to your local newspaper!) But in 2020, content marketers need to think hard about their contributions to the media ecosystem at large. We have a great opportunity and responsibility to produce high-quality, honest stories, backed by strong reporting and research. We have a responsibility to educate our audience, not plug products.

Your content shouldn’t just check a box on an SEO keyword list. It should provide a unique perspective to the world. It should entertain people, or make them think about the world in a new way. (Even if it’s just on a nerdy topic like content marketing.) That’s what drives audience loyalty and business results in the long run. And it’s what the internet desperately needs.

Even if it often doesn’t feel like enough, we as content marketers have been gifted the time and resources that are increasingly rare in the media world, as writers on skeleton staffs are asked to churn out 10 blog posts a day. Don’t waste it. Produce great work—or hire the underemployed journalists who will.

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