By Joe Pulizzi published January 11, 2014

Content Marketing: Dead Already?

pnr-this old marketing logoPNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s edition, Robert and I talk about a “content marketing is dead” post, a big announcement about Kevin Spacey, and the Netflix big data model. Robert raves about three amazing new story-based commercials, and I share my This Old Marketing example of the week: JELL-O.

This week’s show

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Show overview

1. Content Marketing in the News

  • Kevin Spacey to headline Content Marketing World 2014: Yes, it’s true. Mr. Kevin Spacey will be the closing keynote speaker for Content Marketing World. We discuss how the video below was the reason why the CMW team approached Mr. Spacey as a source of content marketing inspiration and expertise. (Contributing articles:; 3 Storytelling Lessons from Kevin Spacey)

  • How Netflix reverse-engineered Hollywood: Following on the Spacey news, we go in-depth into Netflix’s big data content strategy and how it takes content classification to a whole new level (Contributing article: The Atlantic)
  • 2013 — The Year of Marketing M&As: Mergers and acquisitions drove marketing services in 2013, and odds are that more money will be flowing into the content marketing industry in 2014. Could 2014 be the year that venture capital and mergers take content marketing into the big leagues? (Contributing article: DMNews)
  • Content Marketing Is Dead? Already?: We discuss the most talked about article of the week: a controversial post by Mark Schaefer (author of Return on Influence, and a keynote speaker at our upcoming Content Marketing World Sydney event) entitled Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy. Spoiler alert: Robert and I disagree with Mark’s take, and recommend a revised title: Content Marketing Without a Strategy Is Not Sustainable.
  • Story Control: An article in USA Today presents a very good lesson for brands. Bill De Blazio, NYC Mayor elect, rolled out the story of his daughter’s drug problems. Released on Christmas Eve, it portrays the anguish of a 19-year-old girl who achingly explains her private adolescent pain to the public. As the USA Today article’s author states, “It would take the coldest cynic to be anything but generous.” It’s not just controlling the narrative — it’s orchestrating its reception.

2. Rants & Raves

Robert’s Raves: This week, Robert focused his attention on some amazing new advertising spots that actually tell great stories:

Dell: Beginnings


John Lewis: The Bear & The Hare


Old Spice: Mom Song

3. Listener Question

  • This week’s question comes from Janet in Seattle: “I know content marketing is a long term thing — but what, in your opinion, is the best way to measure content marketing in the short term. How do I show that we’re moving in the right direction?”

4. This Old Marketing Example of the Week

  • This week, I share the story of JELL-O and how giving away a recipe book (door-to-door) in local communities took JELL-O from a struggling product to a billion dollar success story.


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Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • James Hahn II

    So thrilled for you Joe! The moment I watched Spacey’s speech, I thought it had content marketing written all over it, but the best I could do was send out a tweet. It’s fantastic you have this venue to be able to bring him in and share the message.

    Plus, one of the greatest actors to ever grace the stage will be on YOUR stage – AWESOME!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      I wonder if we can get him to work some of his impressions. His Pacino is amazing.

      • James Hahn II

        Absolutely. All of them are outstanding!

  • Brian Clark

    Great show guys. Can’t wait to see Kevin Spacey at CMW!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Brian….and great comments on the Schaefer post…

  • Don Stanley

    Love the podcast and appreciate the “sunshine vortex”. In particular, love your take Joe on the “content marketing is dead”. Your reply — “there’s not too much of the RIGHT content out there” — is spot on. Couldn’t agree more.

    Also you guys got me excited about Kevin Spacey. I have to admit I’m not a TV watcher (it’s too much of a time vortex for me) so I wasn’t aware of Spacey’s connection to long form content marketing. But after listening to you guys talk about him, I’m gonna definitely do my best to make it to CMW this year!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      House of Cards season 2 comes out February 14th!

  • ronellsmith

    The Netflix story in The Atlantic was one of the most eye-opening reads I’ve encountered in some time. It’s the type of strategy that stays with you, bleeding into areas of our business as well.

    The Schaefer piece is great for generating discussion, but I have always believed the best-executed strategy wins in the end. Those without a strategy, or who don’t execute it well, will be left behind.

    Content marketing as a whole, however, will march on, lighter, faster and better for the “losses.”

    Thanks for consistently tackling the most poignant, resonant issues in with PnR.


    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Ronell…I know…we could spend a couple months just trying to figure out what they are doing. Thanks again for all your support.

  • mabredl

    You are right with your revised title: Content Marketing Without a Strategy Is Not Sustainable. But nobody would have cared about such a title!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Ain’t that the truth.

  • Akash Agarwal

    It’s a nice article on content marketing. I don’t think so content marketing is dead already. Thanks for sharing such valuable information.

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    Thanks for the shout-out and continuing the dialogue on the Content Shock post. One of the interesting and weird things happening with the “dissent” in this space is that a few folks (like Robert) say they disagree … and then basically agree with every point I make : )

    “Cover the world with content” cannot work (in most cases) any more in a flooded market and there has to be strategy behind it,. As Robert said, the content world is getting crowded and reach is harder than ever to attain, which is precisely the point of my article. You both state that we have to be “better” (which also comes at a cost).

    I do disagree with the point that “great content wins period.” I think we all know that is not true. Great content merely gets you a seat at the table these days. But I suspect we probably agree on that point too because both of you consistently discuss the need to build an audience, have a means of distribution, promotion, optimization, etc in a complex formula that might, just might, help you cut through the clutter.

    Great podcast gents.

    • Robert Rose

      Mark – first thanks for the kudos on the podcast buddy.. That means alot… Second, if your shifting thesis is somehow conforming with mine – then I guess we’re getting somewhere (insert big laugh)….

      What I’ve consistently disagreed with – both initially and now – is your assertion in your piece that a content marketing strategy is ultimately unsustainable even WITH deep pockets because of some economic model based on there being too much supply… If you still stand by that – then we do, indeed, still disagree.

      Let me just clarify my points. Yes, audiences are fragmented more than ever. Yes, the traditional marketer’s definition of achieving “reach” is more complex than ever and yes blanketing the world with content without a plan is a flawed strategy. In sum: executing Content Marketing well is not easy. But “not easy”, and “unsustainable so that only the “deep pockets” can do it” are not equal. I will repeat it. Great Content Wins. Always. Yes, sometimes great content doesn’t find an audience – or takes more time to find it than it perhaps should. But good guys also don’t always win the gunfight either and the best technology doesn’t always win. But if I’m placing my bet – it’s always going to be on being remarkable – rather than prolific.

      Ironically, your post is exactly that. Your post (at this writing) has more than 850 shares on twitter and hundreds of comments. It has no doubt spread to hundreds of other blogs at this point. It’s generated *at least* three marketing ads in related content marketing efforts that are trying to “newsjack” it… So – all in all – I think you’d call it a successful piece of content. I’m sure it brought you more subscribers, possible speaking engagements – and certainly is laying the groundwork for the big reveal that I’m assuming you have coming at some point… The post before it and the one before it average about half as many shares – and much fewer comments… But did the Content Shock post cost you twice as much? To Make? To Post?

      No…. And that’s the point (at least the one I’m trying to make)… Great content (to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park) um.. finds a way… It always has and it always will…