Surging interest in “content marketing” among brands will open up important revenue opportunities for people trained as journalists, and reinforce the broad importance of storytelling, writing and multimedia production skills in today’s economy. At this point, even more traditional marketers and small businesses have embraced the need for social media and digital strategies, but I think soon a wider number will join thought leaders in recognizing that just having a Twitter account or blog is not enough — to engage customers you need something interesting and relevant to put there, and that’s not so easy to do. Indeed, an October survey of marketers found that while 92 percent had embraced “social marketing,” their second-biggest concern next to measuring ROI was the difficulty producing a constant stream of fresh content.
It wasn’t long ago when the a phrase like “content marketing” would have made me reach for the nearest trash can, but the simple fact is journalism needs diverse revenue sources, and as Chris Anderson, Emily Bell, and Clay Shirky point out in the recent Tow Center report on Post-Industrial Journalism, advertising is simply not going to be able to support the news gathering we need going forward. How content marketing fits into the journalism mix exactly I’m not sure, but maybe it offers opportunities for either organizations or individual journalists working as freelancers to (a) subsidize traditional, hard-hitting investigative reporting and/or (b) find ways to tell important stories with brand backing and heaping doses of transparency.
I’m a journalism professor, so I’m biased, but I also think this trend augers well for the sustainability for journalism education. The skills we teach remain not only important but also marketable.
I’d also note that marketers are, like journalists, just on the tip of the iceberg in terms of really embracing mobile strategies, and there will be opportunities for more and better content creation in that realm going forward as well.
It’s not news that news organizations are beginning to shift some of their attention away from pageviews and toward building an engaged and loyal audience. But based on my research with Jonathan Groves of Drury University, I think 2013 and coming years will see an increased awareness among journalists that they must not only give their readers news where and when and how they want it, but also build a community around it with a sustained commitment to a more participatory style of journalism.
This prescription has been widely discussed, but as other researchers have also documented, there remains widespread resistance in newsrooms to a more active audience. Truly participatory journalism is difficult, time-consuming, and messy, but organizations seeking engagement can’t rely on the production and distribution of great content or the capricious whims of search-driven traffic alone.