There is a range of writers and prices from which brands can
choose. There are, for instance, best-selling authors and Pulitzer
Prize nominees, youngsters fresh out of journalism school and a
number of others who work for major publications but freelance on
the side. Contently's stable includes about 50,000 writers,
according to Mr. Snow.
"It's like a supermarket for writers," said Tomas Kellner,
managing editor at GE Reports, GE's content-marketing site. "People
like me, who need to scale up their operations, can get access to
writers for a specific project."
To find freelancers for brands, Contently mines its trove of
data on writers, which includes the topics they write about, how
well their stuff performs, where they've written and more. Then
Contently makes the introduction.
The bulk of Contently's revenue, however, comes from the
software it licenses to brands. The software, for instance, allows
editors, lawyers and others to review articles before they're
published; it also includes contracts, tax forms and legal
agreements. "We make no profit from the 15% fee for writers," Mr.
Snow said. "The writers become the hook for us to get into these
big companies with our platform."
Mr. Snow, who published his first book, "Smartcuts," last month, is
benefitting from content marketing, but he's no booster. He calls
bullshit as quickly as he praises quality content from brands.
"Brand journalism is a stupid term," said Mr. Snow. "It's
information entertainment. It's education."
He has also clashed with Contently's business side about which
companies to work with and the fee they charge writers. Contently
even has a code of ethics, which says that if a brand changes the
copy it must remove the byline or get the writer's permission.
Actions like this have made journalists more comfortable writing
for brands on the side, several writers said.
"Shane really is a journalist, an intellectual and a voice for
why quality content marketing is better for everyone in the
content-marketing ecosystem," said Eric Paley, partner at Founder
Collective, the first seed investor in Contently. "He's raising the
quality bar; he's applying journalistic storytelling to this