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This Week in Content Marketing: Could Brands Cure Traditional Media’s Run to Eyeballs?


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

In this episode, Robert and I get together IRL and discuss Airbnb’s new magazine launch with Hearst. We also debate whether or not “content blindness” is a real thing, and consider the possibility that media companies’ drive to run at the speed of news (and eyeballs) might be killing truth in journalism — although it may also be creating an opportunity for brands. Rants and raves include a business model at risk of extinction and FCC regulations that should have been turned into fossils by now; then we wrap up with an example that wrote the book on inbound marketing — literally.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on November 28, 2016; Length: 1:01:05)

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1.    Content marketing in the news

  • Airbnb partners with Hearst on new magazine venture (07:53): At its recent Airbnb Open event in Los Angeles, Airbnb launched a new print magazine, filled with content that is entirely sourced from the company’s hosts and guests. Considering that there was no mention made of the company’s 2014 internally-produced predecessor (Pineapple) during the event, as pointed out in an Adweek article covering the event, Robert and I are somewhat confused about the content strategy and purpose behind this new venture — especially in light of Airbnb’s underwhelming commitment to publishing just two additional issues in 2017.
  • The editor’s guide to working with brands (13:33): A fantastic older article we rediscovered on Contently discusses the growing realization that having a great editorial leader on staff is no longer a “nice to have” benefit for brands — it’s expected table stakes for playing in the content game. Among the article’s more pertinent points is the question of how to address challenges encountered by editors who may be unused to functioning in a brand environment, where processes like legal and regulatory reviews can often interrupt the typical workflow. In response, we offer some of our own suggestions for navigating this issue, as well as other related concerns.
  • Is “content blindness” the new “banner blindness”? (24:55): In a recent op-ed piece published on Forbes Business, Brandpoint President Scott Severson addresses the idea that content marketing is likely to suffer a decline in impact due to the increasingly overwhelming volume of low-quality content being produced online. While I concede Scott’s main points, I don’t see “content blindness” as being a recent phenomenon: There has always been more content out there than people can reasonably be expected to consume. Regardless of how long this blindness may have been around, could a solution be as simple as “create better content”?   
  • Most students can’t tell if news is real or fake on social media (32:00): The Wall Street Journal (registration required) reports on a recent Stanford study that found that the majority of teens and preteens are clueless when it comes to evaluating the credibility of the news they consume online. Not only did Robert and I have some major concerns with the article’s assertions on this important issue, we also found it to be a bit ironic, as the article itself fails to make the critical distinction between fake or inaccurate news and content that reasonably offers a differing or possibly biased perspective.       

2.    Sponsor (40:38)

  • Intelligent Content Conference. If you are serious about putting content to work in your business, you won’t want to miss this event — or our just-announced keynote speaker, iconic author and outspoken raconteur Fran Lebowitz. Learn how to set your content free from the copy/paste mentality and move toward a more agile, modular, and scalable approach to content creation and distribution. Early-bird rates fly away on December 17, 2016, so register today.

3.    Rants and raves (44:00)

  • Joe’s rant: I recently came across this USA Today article on regional media companies’ plans to lobby U.S. president-elect Donald Trump to loosen the FCC’s long-held restrictions on media cross-ownership. Considering that practically every media company is a now a multichannel content publisher, I find it very interesting that these outdated laws have even continued to exist up until now, and predict that this will change in the upcoming year.
  • Robert’s “commentary/rant”: Coincidentally, while I was pondering media ownership, Robert was reading an article from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which asserts that another legacy practice is likely on its last legs: media’s reliance on display ad-based business models. Rather than viewing online advertising as being on the verge of complete extinction, Robert feels that the situation should be viewed as more of a gradual tectonic shift: a series of small, slow-moving changes that will continue to build up over time, and will eventually result in an irreversible impact on the landscape.

4.    This Old Marketing example of the week (54:30)

  • Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot): There have been more than a few times over the past year where Robert and I haven’t exactly seen eye to eye with the publishing methods of our friends at marketing automation company HubSpot. But that doesn’t mean we won’t acknowledge them as being among the best out there when it comes to using content marketing to build a business. In fact, their strong content platform has helped the company grow from a start-up in 2006 to its current valuation of over $2 billion. On previous episodes of this podcast, we’ve discussed some of the company’s most impressive content accomplishments, including its annual customer event, Inbound, and its well-known blog; yet surprisingly, we’ve never mentioned what is arguably the key initiative behind the entire inbound marketing movement: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs, a book that was co-written in 2009 by HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. What I find to be particularly interesting here is that the entire marketing automation category, including folks from Eloqua and Marketo, have all leveraged print books written by their executive team members to set the vision behind their entire content marketing strategies. Judging by the success these companies — and others — continue to have with the format, I predict an upcoming resurgence in the popularity of print content.


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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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