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This Week in Content Marketing: Audience, Not Content, Is the Real Asset


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this episode, Robert and I discuss the results of CMI’s 2017 content marketing benchmarks report and confirm that content marketing is, indeed, all about building an audience. We also talk about Rolling Stone magazine’s new buyer, and debate who should be in charge of content creation. Rants and raves include a book review and the demise of Mental Floss’ print publication; then we wrap up with an example of the week from Sainsbury’s. 

This week’s show

(Recorded live on October 3, 2016; Length: 1:08:40)

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1.   Content marketing in the news

  • Singapore-based music start-up buys 49% stake in Rolling Stone (09:37): U.S.-based Wenner Media announced the sale of its stake to Singapore’s BandLab, which plans to focus on “expanding Rolling Stone’s business in new markets, and propelling the brand’s global evolution,” according to TechCrunch. While Robert is fascinated by this example of a music product company using a content brand to drive sales, I believe the potential to ramp up your content capabilities quickly through an acquisition should be a no-brainer for anyone in the media business.
  • Content marketing takes a turn for the better: New 2017 research (16:31): Last week, CMI released its new B2B Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, which demonstrates that enthusiasm and momentum for content marketing are definitely on the rise. I’m greatly relieved to see the industry turning the corner on the “trough of disillusionment” we were stuck in last year, and I discuss two particular trends that the research attributes this shift to, while Robert opens a discussion on what marketers will have to do to maintain the necessary quality standards and production schedules to keep up with such a high demand for content.
  • Content creation: Whose job is it anyway? (40:00): Ad agencies are increasingly embracing content marketing because of its potential to help them build audiences for their clients, rather than buy them. But who they feel should be in charge of that content is a less clear-cut decision, according to a recent article on the U.K.-based Mediatel. While we aren’t convinced that the traditional agencies are well-prepared to make these types of high-level content decisions yet, we absolutely believe that those who specialize in content will need to have a seat at the table when they are.  

2.    Sponsor (45:45)

  • ion interactive: 50 Ways to Engage Your Audience — Interactive Lookbook: Want a fun way to get 50 ideas for improving content engagement? That’s what this interactive lookbook is all about. Each capability is illustrated as an example of itself. Have fun. Get ideas. Get results. Get the Lookbook.


3.    Rants and raves (47:50)

  • Robert’s rant No. 1: Robert recently discovered a new book by Mara Einstein, called Black Ops Advertising, which contends that content marketing and native advertising are dangerously deceptive “stealth marketing” tactics, out to fool people into believing that they are more than just sponsored messages and sales pitches. As you might expect, Robert takes issue with many of the book’s contentions, though he does encourage those who love a good marketing conspiracy to read it — with a grain of salt.  
  • Robert’s rant No. 2: Robert is fascinated with the story shared in an entertaining Slate article, which details Paramount Pictures’ self-flagellation after having taken the movie idea of a 4-year-old and turning it into a $115 million write-down. If, as a marketer you’ve ever struggled with content quality and the feeling that your ideas aren’t worthy of being produced, take heart that even the magic-makers in Hollywood aren’t immune to suffering from creative blocks or executing on bad ideas.
  • Joe’s rant No. 1: I wanted to point out a recent Digiday article that discusses a new analysis by NewsWhip, which found that publishers appear to be cooling on Facebook Instant Articles. The decline is likely due to the difficulty media companies are having in monetizing the vast amount of content they publish on the social network — which leaves me with little to say about this complication of building your brand on pay-to-play platforms beyond, “I told you so.”
  • Joe’s rant No. 2: After 15 years, news and entertainment magazine Mental Floss is shuttering its print version, as discussed in an article on Folio. I’m disappointed — though not surprised — that Mental Floss’ publishers felt its business model was no longer sustainable; but the decision also emphasizes how tremendous an opportunity print still represents when it comes to cutting through the clutter — as long as you aren’t looking to monetize your publication through print advertising.

4.   This Old Marketing example of the week (1:00:35)

  • Robert shares an exciting example this week from U.K. grocery chain Sainsbury’s, which came away from the 2016 Content Marketing Awards with the prize for Project of the Year for its multiplatform publication, Sainsbury’s Magazine. Robert admits that, until recently, he didn’t appreciate the full details of this landmark content effort. However, during last week’s speaking engagement in London, he had an opportunity to hear from Seven, the U.K.-based agency that produces the effort, and learned that, not only has the magazine been around since 1993, but it also came about in a somewhat unique fashion: A cook named Delia Smith proposed co-launching a new publication with the supermarket as a way to help people learn to cook better, use fresher ingredients, and work with the latest cookware supplies and techniques. Over the years, the magazine has grown to become the No. 1 cookery magazine in the U.K., with 3 million paid subscribers — which makes it a content marketing effort that actually pays for itself. But, what’s even more remarkable is that according to a 2015 survey conducted by the company, 81% of readers have cooked a recipe after reading the magazine, and eight out of 10 have bought a product from Sainsbury’s after reading about it. Simultaneously serving as a successful marketing vehicle, a proven driver of purchase intent, and a revenue generator, it’s a stellar example of the multiple levels of value content marketing can provide for a business.


For a full list of PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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