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This Week in Content Marketing: The Coming Opportunity in Email (Yes, Email)


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

In this week’s episode, Robert and I discuss the idea of “peak content” and the lesson that brand marketers can learn from it. Next, we ponder the future of email, which has turned out to be a surprisingly resilient communications medium – and a big opportunity for content marketers. Finally, we ponder how the role of chief content officer is evolving in media companies, and debate whether or not brands ought to treat it as a C-level position. Rants and raves include PewDiePie’s new opportunity with Disney, the nature of creativity (it’s not just for a specially anointed few), and a big challenge publishers are facing today. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Karo Syrup.

This week’s show

(Recorded live January 18, 2016; Length: 1:01:35)

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1. Content marketing in the news

  • Peak content: The collapse of the attention economy (7:27): For a long time, we’ve been creating too much content, so much so that Media Briefing writer Kevin Anderson thinks we’ve now reached “peak content” – the point where the glut of things to read, watch, and listen to has become completely unsustainable. There hasn’t been enough ad revenue to sustain it for years, which leads him to believe a shakeout is coming in 2016. I observe that many news websites are churning out increasing volumes of content produced by large editorial staffs, but without the traffic and advertising revenue needed to support it. Robert points out a lesson that brand marketers can learn from the struggles publishers are facing today.
  • What comes after emails (20:32): Despite its shortcomings, email appears to be here to stay, according to this detailed analysis from The Atlantic. Like any existing technology, its role continues to evolve, even as web-based work management applications like Slack are starting to usurp some of its traditional roles. Robert and I are big believers in the power of email; we agree that there are still many opportunities for brands to create compelling email experiences that cut through the clutter and get noticed.
  • Changing roles of the chief content officer (30:22): Dramatic changes in the ways in which content is produced, distributed, and consumed at media companies have led to rising demand for strategic content leadership, says a new report from Spencer Stuart. Some companies have established a new C-level role: the chief content officer (CCO). This detailed analysis outlines the key characteristics of today’s CCO. Even though this article is very media-centric, Robert and I agree it’s a must-read for brand marketers. We close with a detailed discussion about whether or not content should be a C-level function in organizations.

2. Sponsor (39:00)

  • Demandbase: Today’s B2B marketers face a wealth of challenges. Even with marketing technologies to help them reach prospects and track results, most marketers end up focusing on tactics for execution and not the strategies those tools support. Fortunately, there’s a better path forward; it’s called account-based marketing (ABM). In this new e-book from Demandbase, you’ll learn actionable insights on how account-based marketing can pull together disparate resources into something that makes everyone in your company say “Wow!” To learn more about ABM, visit


3. Rants and raves (41:50)

  • Robert’s rant: Robert doesn’t like the idea that this article from Quartz propagates – that the brains of creative people work differently than those of others. That’s BS, he declares. He prefers John Cleese’s view of creativity, which is that it’s a way of acting or operating – a “muscle” that can be developed. He believes the one thing that will differentiate us is our ability to envision innovative ideas and solutions. If we outsource creativity to agencies and freelancers, we risk becoming a commodity, he warns.
  • Joe’s raves: I love this article from Talking New Media, which suggests that publishers either need to pursue gigantic audiences that are irresistible to advertisers or focus on building a highly engaged niche audience. For most of them, the latter approach is the only practical option. I was also excited to read this announcement that Disney’s Maker Studios has given Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, a network to run. It’s called Revelmode, and the plan is to develop “original shows, games, charitable programs, community events, merchandise, and more” with a focus on gaming and pop culture.

4. This Old Marketing example of the week (53:44)

  • Karo Syrup: Corn syrup is used to thicken, sweeten, and preserve the freshness of food, and as a substitute for more expensive cane sugar. But in the early 20th century, it wasn’t selling well. So its maker published cookbooks containing recipes that featured this convenient new consumer product, and supported it with a huge advertising budget. In 1930, the wife of a Karo executive discovered an addictive, new use for its dark syrup – as an ingredient in pecan pie. Her delicious recipe soon went viral. (In the early 20th century, that meant people mailed the recipe to relatives and friends, the equivalent of Pinterest today.) Karo Syrup focused its marketing efforts on pecan pies around the holidays, promoting them in newspapers, magazines, and promotional mailers. To build upon its success, the company then started to publish cookbooks that incorporated its syrup into many other types of dessert recipes. Even today, its website is very focused on recipes. This is an excellent example of #ThisOldMarketing.


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

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute. Illustration by Andrew Seabart.

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