It’s feeling a lot like 2007 in the corporate communications world.
That’s about the time social media tools reached their tipping points and organizations got serious about embracing them. As a result, serious-minded people argued over whether it was a fad, while quick-thinking entrepreneurs established themselves as “experts” in the nascent field. Executives furrowed their brows.
In 2013, the new social media is content marketing.
Sure, the basic concept has been around for years—decades even—but a confluence of things has made it a top strategy among PR and marketing folks.
Content marketing, also known as brand journalism (or its close relative native advertising), is the practice of organizations’ creating their own media outlets. Companies such as Dell, Coca-Cola, and IBM are creating what looks like—and in many ways is—a journalistic product.
In case you’re still undecided, here are five signs content marketing is the new hot thing:
1. Major PR firms are embracing it.
A number of small and mid-size PR and marketing agencies are producing high-quality content for brands, but this year, two giants of PR—Edelman and Weber Shandwick—joined the content marketing game.
Last week, Weber Shandwick announced the creation of Mediaco, a unit dedicated to content marketing. In November, Edelman named Steve Rubel to the newly formed position of chief content strategist. Basically, he’s the company’s czar of content strategy, responsible for overseeing programs such as media partnerships that “blend paid, earned and owned disciplines.”
2. Major media companies are relying on it for new sources of revenue.
As the power of traditional advertising—think banner ads and pop-ups—fades, old and new media companies alike are looking for new ways to make money. At the same time, companies embracing content marketing need someone to feed the content beast with fresh and entertaining media.
You can probably see where this is going: Companies are hiring media outlets to create content. For example, General Electric works with BuzzFeed to create custom-branded content for the site. These highly shareable articles appear as regular stories on BuzzFeed, except the byline indicates it is sponsored content. One branded story features “timeless G.E. ads.”
Another darling of the Internet, Gawker, has created sponsored articles for years, while old-media companies such as Forbes and The Washington Post are allowing branded content on their websites. The Onion has also gotten into the act, helping major brands such as Clorox and Ford create original content.
3. Fortune 500 companies are launching content marketing sites.
For the past several years, major companies have launched websites that produce high-quality content and mirror that of a journalistic product. For instance, in November, Coca-Cola relaunched its corporate website Coca-ColaCompany.com, under the guise of brand journalism. America Airlines Cargo won a PR Daily Digital PR and Social Media Award for its content marketing site, Business Insights.
4. One startup specializing in content marketing is getting major funding.
Contently, which began as a service that matches freelancers with media companies, received nearly $2 million in funding as it shifts focus to content marketing, according to Advertising Age. The startup is offering freelancers to companies hungry for content. Contently is working with a number of organizations and provides content for American Express’s popular blog, Open Forum.
5. Reporters are leaving journalism for content marketing jobs.
As the media upheaval continues, journalists continue to move from newsrooms to creative firms in increasing numbers. Instead of taking on traditional media relations roles, they’re forming newsrooms for brands. Nissan, for instance, staffs a newsroom with a number of former reporters and treats the endeavor as journalism.
Meanwhile, top journalists from Fortune magazine, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and others have taken jobs with non-media organizations to create content. Last week, Dan Lyons, former Newsweek columnist and editor of ReadWrite, joined the online marketing firm HubSpot.
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