InsightaaS: Regular Across the Net readers are aware of the regard we have forÂ Internet/IT philosopher Nicolas Carr of “IT Doesn’t Matter” fame; we consider hisÂ Rough Type blog to be required reading for those (including us!) who are trying to stay current with not just IT developments but their meaning.
In this post, Carr discusses the text and implications of an HBR post entitled “The Content Marketing Revolution.” While Carr is respectful in his approach (something that can’t necessarily be said of other reactions quoted in Carr’s post), he is clearly not in favour of a world where businesses engage in “a full-scale move into publishing and broadcasting.” By the end of the piece, his hostility to this activity is more apparent: “”Red Bull is ourÂ new Voltaire. Let theÂ intellectual buzz begin.” Carr bemoans, with justification, the way in which content marketing is infusing thought leadership with commercial agendas.
That said…it’s equally fair to note that we as Internet consumers are receiving the media we deserve, or perhaps more accurately, that we are willing to pay for. Online content consumers tend not to pay for access to that content, so one of two main revenue sources that was traditionally used to compensate writers and publishers is very hard to capture. At the same time, it is also difficult for publishers to secure content-independent display advertising, as brands increasingly opt to fund custom content and PR rather than traditional print or impression-based online ads. Content sources themselves are in need of some way to monetize their labour – and if content developed with the support of major brands is how that occurs, well, that’s how it is funded, and readers will need to be discerning enough to select the good from the intellectually-compromised. Despite the mocking that HBR post authorÂ Alexander Jutkowitz is receiving for referencing the Age of Enlightenment in his post, there is at least one sense in which the comparison between eras holds true: for centuries, content authors (such as composers) depended on patrons, and with content marketing, there’s a case to be made that we are revisiting a patron-driven rather than customer-driven creation model.
Alexander Jutkowitz wears a couple of hats. He’s the chief strategist at the public-relationsÂ giant Hill & Knowlton, and he sits on the board of the Columbia Journalism Review. That makes him particularly well positionedÂ to opine on the great PR-journo mashup otherwise known as content marketing. “The success of content marketing has radicalized the way companies communicate,” Jutkowitz writes in the Harvard Business Review. “For innovative brands, an award-winning Tumblr now carries serious clout; hashtag campaigns have become as compelling as taglines; and the Digiday Awards are as coveted as the Stevies. The content marketing revolution signals more than a mere marketing fad. It marks an important new chapter in the history of business communications: the era of corporate enlightenment.”
The next stage in the era of corporate enlightenment is a full-scale move into publishing and broadcasting, as businessesÂ establish the means to push their voices into the center of the culture, into the center of the conversation. “Today, large corporations are becoming their own media companies, news bureaus, research universities, and social networks,” writesÂ Jutkowitz, noting howÂ “big brands areÂ poaching top-talent journalistsÂ in droves and implementing the most successful aspects of the traditional media house.” He goes on…
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