Skip to content

This Week in Content Marketing: Here’s What Verizon Should Have Done with SugarString



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

In this week’s holiday episode, Robert and I talk about the difference between a media company and a technology company. We then discuss the problems Google is facing and what Verizon should have done with SugarString instead of killing this publishing platform. Robert and I are all raves this episode with kudos to George Clooney and some excellent storytelling from John Lewis and Coca-Cola. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Car Talk.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on December 21, 2014; Length: 1:02:31)

Download this week’s PNR This Old Marketing podcast.

If you enjoy our PNR podcasts, we would love if you would rate it, or post a review, on iTunes

1. Content Marketing in the News

  • Time’s Big Bet On Becoming A Technology Company (3:50): Since its spin-off last year, Time Inc. has been making some big moves to become known as a technology company, Business Insider reports. Time recently became the first publishing company to accept Bitcoin for subscriptions and announced a partnership with IFTTT (If This, Then That). Robert and I agree that Time is becoming an interactive media company, not a technology company. I express some concerns about the company’s strategy and how it relates to its core business.
  • Google’s Rough Transition (12:48): A new LinkedIn article by Business Insider chief correspondent, Nick Carlson, suggests that Google is struggling. According to the author, the company faces pressure on many fronts including changing consumer search habits and the rise of mobile and aggressive competitors like Facebook. Robert and I believe Google is as innovative as ever, but consumer search habits are changing. We ruminate about the future of search, including visual tools like Pinterest and SlideShare, and share a key takeaway for content marketers and media companies.
  • Lessons from SugarString (26:44): This article from Digiday does a post-mortem of SugarString, Verizon’s news website which the telco recently shut down after a controversy erupted over topics it refused to cover. Robert and I are amazed that Verizon folded so easily, something that a traditional publisher would never do. As we pointed out in episode #51 of This Old Marketing, Verizon can cover or exclude whatever topics it wants on its publishing platform. We believe Verizon should have stuck with SugarString and we share what content marketers can learn from this debacle.
  • A Casualty in the Race for Traffic (34:45): Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, admits that his media company has failed to keep pace with faster, more nimble rivals like BuzzFeed, according to an article in USA Today. Robert sees this as a sign of the accelerating pace of change in big media. I see it as a failure of strategy, in trying to play the same game as BuzzFeed rather than differentiating itself. We close with a discussion of how brands ought to staff and organize to be successful at content marketing.

2. Sponsor (44:42)

  • This Old Marketing is sponsored by Acrolinx, which builds enterprise linguistic analytics software that helps brands intelligently translate and manage their content in multiple languages. Acrolinx is promoting a new eBook called Speak with One Voice: How to Gain Competitive Advantage in the Content Era. It answers questions such as how can you make your content stand out? And, how should companies align their marketing and technical content so they speak with one voice to their prospects and customers? This eBook answers these questions, shares best practices for creating great content, and points you to technology that can help streamline the process and make it more efficient. You can register for it at


3. Rants and Raves (46:54)

  • Joe’s Rave: George Clooney has taken the media and Hollywood to task for not rallying behind Sony after its servers were hacked. I agree with Clooney’s point of view that you can’t let other people dictate your story. This type of threat can happen to any brand, anywhere – a cautionary tale for This Old Marketing listeners. Robert ties in this article with one from Gawker, which tells the story of Justine Sacco, a woman whose thoughtless tweet several years ago ignited a Twitter firestorm. If you create content with a distinct point of view, this could happen to you.
  • Robert’s Rave: In the spirit of the holiday, Robert has selected two of his favorite Christmas ads: John Lewis and Coca-Cola. They do a masterful job of telling beautiful stories, encapsulating the spirit of Christmas and bringing joy to anyone who views them. The take-away for content marketers: Make video worth watching. Tell great human stories!

4. This Old Marketing Example of the Week (55:46)

  • Car Talk: From 1977 to 2012, Tom and Ray Magliozzi – better known as “Click and Clack the Tappett Brothers” – informed and entertained radio listeners with their one-of-a-kind radio show, Car Talk. Syndicated by NPR, it reached 3.2 million listeners via 660 radio stations in 2012. The older of the two brothers, Tom, recently passed away. USA Today revealed the backstory of Car Talk in an article that paid tribute to them. The Magliozzi brothers started Car Talk as a “vehicle” (pun intended) to attract customers to their garage in Boston. They couldn’t mention the name or location of the garage on the show. To solve this problem, they cleverly devised a series of puzzlers and contests where they encouraged listeners to send entries to the shop’s address, indirectly revealing its name and location.
Image source:

For the latest from Robert Rose, read Rose-Colored Glasses each week.

How do I subscribe?

itunes logo stitcher logo