Skip to content

Content Marketers: How to Think and Act Like a Publisher

If you are assessing your marketing efforts and investigating ways to transform your approach to attract today’s more savvy B2B buyers, undoubtedly you have run into the term content marketing. (You found the Content Marketing Institute, right?) In almost every introduction to content marketing, you also have undoubtedly heard (or read) phrases like, “you are now the media” and “think like a publisher.”

What you may be having a hard time finding after learning that “you are the media” and that you must “think like a publisher” is content to help you learn how to do so. This post is for marketers interested in learning how publishers think and act. It’s a mindset that, when applied to your B2B content marketing strategy, will open up a whole new world of ideas and possibilities.

A side note before jumping in: this is an introductory article intended to provide marketers some insight into the discipline and business of publishing. It offers suggestions on how to think and act like a publisher and how to apply that thinking to your content marketing. It is by no means exhaustive or all inclusive.  Publishers do much more than what is presented here.

This two-part article will cover six core areas: Profit, Editorial, Production (today at CMI), Circulation, Distribution, and Seek the Next Opportunity (tomorrow at In each, I will provide actions and advice to help you think and act like a publisher. So let’s get started.


First and foremost, a publisher thinks about profit. Not readers, not editorial, not circulation – profit. The perfect storm of the past few years has shrunk head count, closed titles, transitioned their content online, but never far from the publisher’s mind in any of those decisions was profit. Even in the face of eroded margins, decisions and actions were driven by increasing (or restoring) profits.

The “profit” point here is not so much intended for you to shift your focus to profit (though that is a good focus for anyone) – but to demonstrate that a publisher has a laser focus on their objective, and every decision is guided by that. That’s the take away – have a laser focus on your outcomes; i.e. what do you want to accomplish with your B2B content marketing strategy?


  1. Brainstorm a list of 5 goals and outcomes for your B2B content marketing strategy.
  2. Select one and make it your focus: Don’t lose sight of it. Use it as a litmus test and guiding light for all of your decisions. Constantly ask yourself, “what’s the point of this activity?” to keep you and your team on track.


Every publisher I have ever met obsesses about the quality and relevance of their publication for their readership (oh right, and the advertisers too!). You will never meet a group of people harder on themselves for the misplacement of a word or comma than individuals who work in the publishing industry. A seemingly small mistake, once printed in a newspaper or magazine, serves as an indelible mark on the quality of a publication. Publishers make every effort to ensure that any piece of content produced meets an established editorial standard and is representative of their brand.

In addition to editorial quality and relevance, publishers also think about editorial variety – in both topic and type. The topics are selected for their ability to:

  • Attract the right readers
  • Serve the needs of the readers in their daily lives
  • Drive revenue during certain times of the year (when regular events occur, such as trade shows or annual buyer’s guides)

As for the type of editorial, consider the last magazine you read.  How many different article types or “departments” can you remember? There are feature stories, how to’s, lists, Q&As, product reviews, book reviews, industry calendars, event recaps, and more. Every type has the same objective: to be helpful and useful to the readership. To publishers, variety in editorial type is as important as topic in order to keep readers engaged and prevent them from becoming bored with their publication.


  1. Have a high level of commitment to the quality of the content you produce and pay attention to details. If it has your name on it, the quality of it should not be questioned.
  2. If it is not important or relevant to your readership, don’t spend one ounce of resources on it. Your editorial must be for your readers, not you.
  3. Create a list of content types you are capable of producing or would like to produce. Draft guidelines describing the requirements for producing each. (That’s what publishers do.)
  4. Draft an editorial calendar by defining the topics of the editorial and the final publication date. Pay careful attention to the frequency at which you write about topics. Write more on the topics that are most important to your readership.


The production department of a publishing company is its nerve center. Without it, the editorial never reaches the reader, online or offline. To do this, day after day, month after month, everything from article layout to cover design to proofreading is on a deadline and a schedule. Attention to detail is amongst the highest of priorities. The word “deadline” means something. The dates on a production schedule are respected, and missing one is doing the unthinkable.

Now, don’t let this conjure up in your mind a world full of stress and a frantic pace where everyone is running around last minute trying to get their work done. (That only happens to those of us outside the world of publishing.) Quite the contrary actually. Production departments are run like well-oiled machines and are known for their ability to get the job done on time under virtually any circumstance.


  1. Add a “Managing Editor” to your staff. A managing editor doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-time employee, but someone on your staff needs to be responsible for coordinating, scheduling, and tracking the progress on your content production. Without someone fulfilling this role, you’ll miss deadlines; you’ll have inconsistent results and a stress level that isn’t good for anyone.
  2. Expand your schedules to include more milestone dates. If the only date you are tracking is the publication date (e.g. the day you want the article on the blog), you are not controlling the content production process enough. Here are additional dates to add to your publication schedule: first draft, copy edit, final draft, proofread, post to CMS, publish.

Whether you need the clarity of having one priority driving your actions (profit), the focus on quality, relevance, and variety (editorial), or the systematic creation of content due to coordinated schedules and plans (production), it doesn’t take long for one to see the benefits of thinking and acting like a publisher. The challenge you are now faced with is incorporating this thinking into your day-to-day activities and, on an even grander scale, your marketing department.

What will you do? Will you implement these actions? As it is one thing to find and read this article, it’s an entirely different thing to translate these recommended actions into a reality in your company.

Part Two is on  There, I take on Circulation, Distribution, and Seek the Next Opportunity as we continue helping you learn how to think and act like a publisher.