By Joe Pulizzi published October 23, 2014

4 Ways to Break the Insanity of Content Marketing Competition


There has been no shortage of posts and articles regarding the onslaught of content in all areas of marketing. Yes, everyone’s a publisher … we are all competing for attention with the Googles and LinkedIns of the world. But what’s on my mind is this: Are we, as content marketers, creative enough with our stories and our distribution options? Do we do the same things our competitors are doing? Are we just trying to tell the same story incrementally better? Shouldn’t we look to carve out something new?

Don’t compete

Peter Theil, co-founder of PayPal (with Elon Musk) and Facebook’s first outside investor, believes that most businesses copy other businesses, and thus fail. “Figure out something that nobody else is doing and look to create a monopoly in some area that’s been underdeveloped,” he says. “Find a problem nobody else is solving.” Yes, Theil is specifically talking about entrepreneurs, but the same goes for content marketers. We need to get more creative. We need to truly focus on our niche audiences and provide hyper-targeted and relevant content. We also need to rethink our distribution. Here are some ideas I jotted down that may help you.

Rethink podcasts and books

In our latest content marketing research, we looked at the gap between what effective marketers do compared to ineffective marketers. The biggest surprise to me came in two nontraditional packages. Effective content marketers are seeing amazing results in both podcasts and printed books. Of course, these two are not at the top of marketers’ usage list (for B2B companies, 30 percent leverage books while just 22 percent leverage podcasts.) I smell an opportunity here to get in before the rush.

Kick a few platforms to the curb

In our just-released B2C research, the average company creates content for six (yes, six) different social media sites. How can an enterprise dominate a content marketing niche by focusing on so many channels? I don’t believe this can be done effectively. Dump the underperformers. Initially, the thought for enterprises was to have a presence on all social platforms. I believe this is bad advice. It’s more important for us to develop amazing content that our consumers will share on their platform of choice than to develop content for a specific platform (some social experts are gasping as I write this.) Focus is king in content marketing. If you are not a leader on a particular platform where your audience is, it’s time to adjust the strategy. Double down on what works.

Print is hot

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but print is cool again. Marketers who look to cut through the clutter are finding sanctuary in print. For example, I had no idea what or who Chango was until I received this amazing magazine, The Programmatic Mind. I would never have come across any of Chango’s content online. But they got my attention with this well-designed and extremely relevant print magazine around programmatic advertising, an issue that is becoming increasingly important in the native advertising space. But don’t take my word for it. Our survey results reflect print’s value too. This was the first year in a long time when the use of print magazines did not go down. Some marketers are obviously paying attention.

M&A is real

We have our examples from the past. Adorama, the photography supply store, bought the photography enthusiast JPG magazine. L’Oreal purchased These are outliers, but content M&A activity is on its way to becoming trendy. Just recently, I’ve had discussions with two CMOs of Fortune 1000 companies who are actively looking to purchase media properties where they can associate themselves with active subscriber bases. Where are your customers hanging out on the web? Yes, we have a choice to build the content factory, but we also have the choice to purchase it. I smell BIG opportunity.

For more great insight from Joe Pulizzi about how to advance your content marketing, read Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, & Win More Customers by Marketing Less.

Cover image by Free Stock by CDC/Amanda Mills from Public Health Image Library via

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.

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  • Paul Chaney

    Great advice Joe. Thanks for spying out the land and revealing areas of opportunity. Love that podcasts are still an underutilized medium. It’s been an area of interest for some time. But print? Really? It’s back? Guess it’s time to write another book.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      I know Paul…I couldn’t believe I was talking about print like that either. Who knew?

  • Kostas Chiotis

    Hi Joe, some interesting points here. I agree whole heartedly on the dropping some platforms. I think when you try to be all things to fast it just leaves you over stretched. Podcasts are certainly underused right now!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      It is amazing about podcasts…so mature yet underused in so many ways.

  • Emily King

    Some fantastic advice, Joe.

    We’ve been podcasting for almost two years now and have found that it’s a great way of making new connections and educating existing customers and contacts around our services – all without being salesy. And it also allows you to show that your business is more than just its services: there’s people behind it too.

    And it’s amazing the kinds of conversations you can end up having around your podcast’s subject area. Our latest episode featured serious discussions about using emotion in B2B marketing, but it also had a healthy dose of humour too and not just because we were talking about emotion.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Emily…totally agree. Huge opportunity for brands around podcasts. And we aren’t even close to the potential here.

  • Charisse Browner

    Great article that will most certainly help me when devising our Content Development Strategy and Marketing Plan. I totally agree that less is more, particularly when you are keenly aware of your target audience. I often wondered why companies felt the need to be on all “popular” social media sites when good content will eventually travel to those sites by those that like the material you present to share with others. I am certainly leaning more towards podcast and completely understand that print is making an appearance as another avenue. I think after 8-10 hours of information overload on the computer corresponding to emails, chatting with “friends” on Facebook, connecting with businesses on LinkedIn, and searching the worldwide web for hours at a time to conduct business, printed material is a welcomed change from our unusually normal electronic lives. I think the tides will turn slightly and print will see a nice uptick in usage in the near future. Great stuff, Joe!

  • Suraj Karakulath

    Nice post Joe! love me some podcasts and echo the general sentiment here. I have found that it is the best way to keep track of the general conversations in any industry for that matter, especially if video content is not easily producible. It’s a medium that is criminally underutilised. Podcasts together with print material like ebooks can also be an excellent medium for repurposing content.
    Also completely agree about adoption of all social media channels as overkill. Copyblogger recently shut down their Facebook account when they realised it was not having the expected impact. No harm in trying out all the options at first but at the end of the day, one has to analyse and be selective about which channels give best ROI.

  • Nate Teague

    This is a great article Joe. Really interesting how we’ve come full circle on print advertising. It’s funny, I deal with plenty of small businesses in Australia that finally, in 2014, have moved their focus from offline to online. If I go back to them now and suggest Print is back, they’re going to have a heart attack!

    Regarding the suggestion of “kicking some platforms to the curb”, you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from business owners. Managing six or more platforms with limited resources is a nightmare. Creating content for one or two audiences and doing it really well will provide much better results.

  • James Meyers

    Great blog post Joe! We’re finding that because of the insane amount of content noise being produced by marketers and content technology companies, that deep content formats like ebooks, white papers and yes, print magazines are getting the best response and engagement for our clients. Deep Content is hard to do but when it’s done well, it gets the Deep Value that marketers want.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Amen to that Jim. Thanks!