Chicago—American Business Media's Executive Forum, which wrapped up here Tuesday, lived up to its title, “Content Matters,” by examining content creation from a variety of perspectives: the advertising agencies', the marketers', the lawyers', the publishers' and even the editors'.
The only conclusion to be drawn from the conference's sessions is that the Internet, which has enabled virtually anyone to be a publisher, has thrown content creation into a kind of forced evolution, and everyone in the b-to-b ecosystem is grappling with the shift.
In Tuesday's keynote address, Judy Franks, president of the Marketing Democracy, offered an ad agency perspective on content's evolution. She said the primary direction of the media's shift is convergence with almost every kind of medium moving to screens on computers, tablets and smartphones. In this climate, she said, “the most powerful media brands are evolving into "transmedia brands.' ” She said that social networking sites, such as Facebook, have made it easier than ever to pass along content from all other media. In the end, she said the most effective content is the content “we love to share.”
In other sessions, publishing executives shared a number of approaches to creating paid content. Peter Hoyt, CEO of the Path to Purchase Institute, a for-profit association for consumer marketers trying to reach shoppers on- and offline, described how his organization evolved from what used to be Hoyt Publishing, a b-to-b media company. With the move to an association model, the companies that were once just readers of his publications are now paying members of the Path to Purchase Institute.
The conference also featured b-to-b marketers that had become publishers themselves. Bridget Fletcher, director-suite marketing at Adobe Systems, discussed her company's CMO.com, which publishes information on digital marketing aimed at CMOs. About 90% of the site's content is aggregated from around the Web, CMO.com Editor in Chief Tim Moran said, although the site plans to boost original content creation. Fletcher said the focus of the site is on helping marketers, not promoting Adobe's products. “I respect the importance of neutrality,” she said.
Speaking on the same panel with Fletcher and Moran, who is a former UBM editor, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, cautioned the audience of b-to-b media executives that marketers are beginning to target business journalists and bringing them on staff to aid in content creation. Speaking on a later panel, Gary Slack, chairman of Slack & Co., a marketing communications company, reassured the audience that corporations often have trouble creating compelling, useful content. “I think they suck,” he said, adding: “The PR department allows [the content] to be sanitized six times before it reaches the Web.”