With everybody having to produce more and more content, faster
and faster, standards erode. Inevitably, more marginal stuff --
even cynical stuff (e.g., endless slide shows that gin up page
views) -- gets published.
It gets harder and harder to hold onto pretensions. If you're on
the "church" side of the so-called church-state divide (i.e., the
edit-advertising divide), you've probably been slowly but surely
losing your religion.
But wouldn't you know it? Along the way, something funny happened
to the word content: It got appropriated by the "state"
side of the church-state divide. Marketing types started referring
to what used to be called advertorial as content
marketing. (A key moment in that shift came in Feb. 2010, when
the Custom Publishing Council changed its name to the Custom
Content Council.) It was alchemical, really.
And of course it doesn't necessarily make any sense. Because
what counts as content in an advertising context? Aren't all ads,
at some level, content? When does an ad cross over from mere
marketing to content marketing? If the goal is to get
people to connect -- to share and talk about an ad in social media
and beyond -- can't a traditional (but good) ad function as content
just as well as actual "content marketing"?
If you think about it, we're at a pretty surreal crossroads in
the history of media. Just as a lot of "church"-side content
producers are obsessing about producing more short,
mobile-friendly, "snackable" content (honestly, I just want to
punch myself in the face for just having used the word
snackable), "state"-side content marketers are talking
about producing stuff that has more depth, that allows for more
engagement, that conveys a brand's message with real resonance
beyond just a tagline. Storytelling and narrative
are the new watchwords.
So content is king once again, I guess? At least if it's
To content marketers, I say: More power to you. But just try to
keep in mind what the shovel-wielding high priests of "church"-made
content have learned the hard way about the bottomless pit known as
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising
Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.