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This Week in Content Marketing: Content Marketing Strikes Back

PNR_Episode109-01PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this special Star Wars-themed episode, Robert and I discuss what will happen to Airbnb’s stillborn Pineapple magazine and what marketers can learn from its challenges. Ad blocking is forcing publishers to ask hard questions about the role of the user experience in digital advertising; we offer our predictions on how this war for the hearts and minds of consumers will play out. Has content marketing lost its way? Ann Handley thinks so, and she offers a prescription to get it back on track. Finally, we analyze the significant challenges publishers face today, and how they need to rethink their business models to survive. Rants and raves include our thoughts on the Publicis reorganization, and how a small, savvy ice-cream shop became the official ice cream of Star Wars. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Star Wars comic books.

This week’s show

(Recorded live December 12, 2015; Length: 1:03:25)

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1. Content marketing in the news

  • Here’s what happened to Pineapple – Airbnb’s print magazine (5:15): A year ago, Airbnb Inc. published the first issue of Pineapple, a quarterly print magazine designed for coffee tables in homes across the rental company’s expanding network. Four quarters later, however, the arts-and-culture magazine has printed only one issue. Instead, the company has recently been in talks with Hearst Corp. to launch a new magazine as a joint venture, The Wall Street Journal reports. Our take on this development? CMO Jonathan Mildenhall may have encountered some executional issues that couldn’t be overcome internally – hence the potential joint venture with Hearst, which has the manpower and expertise to produce such a high-quality publication.
  • Ad blocking will force industry to put the user experience first (14:09): In 2016, the discussion about ad blocking will expand to include the overall user experience, predicts DigiDay. Ad blocking is forcing the industry to ask hard questions about the role of the user experience in digital advertising, and whether the industry has completely forgotten about the people on the other side of the screen. I make a prediction on what publishers need to do within the next five years; Robert shares a simple solution to the ad blocking challenge.
  • Content marketing grows up – 2016 prediction (23:55): During 2015, content marketing lost its way, laments Ann Handley. But she believes it will grow up and get back on course in 2016. Content marketing needs to be a little more strategic and real: That means getting the necessary planning, processes, frameworks, creativity, and metrics in place to legitimize itself, she points out. I like Ann’s analysis, which touches on many of the challenges we’ve been discussing on this podcast. But I think her prediction is a year early. Robert blames brands’ focus on quarterly results for their content strategy myopia.
  • Brutal competition for audience time across B2B and B2C (31:18): Colin Morrison, author of long-form media blog Flashes and Flames, spoke at the inaugural B2B Media Strategies event to discuss how business publishers need to adapt to the titanic changes rocking their industry. Specifically, they need to step away from their print-centric strategies and rethink how they approach their audiences. Also, they need to be much more interactive with their audiences, and to think globally. I disagree somewhat: Print still provides a valuable experience. What’s broken is publishers’ revenue models. Robert points out that publishers need to focus on delivering content that’s unique to their target audiences.

2. Sponsor (39:10)

  • Visual storytelling takes a village: In most businesses, the creation of rich-media content is not a scalable process. Whether your organization is using in-house teams, agencies, or freelancers to create these assets, creative efforts seem to be more disparate, ad hoc, and siloed than ever before. To put it simply, great visual storytelling takes a village – but that village seems to be more and more spread out. This new white paper from Widen explains how to transform it into an efficient community that can work together to streamline critical creative processes. You can download this white paper at


3. Rants and raves (43:03)

  • Joe’s raves: If you’re interested in native advertising and sponsored content, then I recommend you listen to episode #17 of Gimlet Media’s excellent StartUp podcast. It talks through how to offer native opportunities to your advertisers, without compromising your editorial integrity, and some of the challenges that presents.

My second rave is about an article from AdWeek that explains how a mom-and-pop creamery in Brooklyn became the official ice cream of Star Wars. It was a simple matter of paying close attention to its customers. It’s a great story!


  • Robert’s rave: Recently, Publicis chairman Maurice Levy utilized a YouTube video to explain the company’s latest reorganization. This long, rambling, sometimes incoherent presentation will leave you scratching your head. But Dr. Tim Walters from Digital Clarity Group has done a masterful job of explaining what Levy was trying to say. He identifies the flaws in Levy’s argument, especially his claim that the firm will destroy its existing siloes of business – while at the same time announcing four new ones. Robert closes with his interpretation of what’s going on with the gigantic advertising holding companies.

4. This Old Marketing example of the week (55:34)

  • Star Wars comic books: Star Wars comics played an important role in helping its namesake movie franchise become one of the most successful of all time. In 1975, Charles Lippincott, Lucasfilm’s publicity supervisor, approached Marvel Comics President Stan Lee about publishing a Star Wars comic book prior to the first film’s release to help promote it to the publisher’s huge fan base. Marvel Comics Group published a series of Star Wars comic books from 1977 to 1986, lasting 107 issues and three annuals. They were so popular that they literally saved Marvel Comics and kept the geek-focused Star Wars audience excited and engaged with the popular movies. The lesson for marketers? Be sure to think about alternative channels when you’re launching a major new product or service, and carefully consider the best timing for placing your content there. Star Wars comic books are an excellent example of #ThisOldMarketing.


Image source: Comic Book School

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

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