Content marketing, meet the media business

Marketers who view their content program as a media property will win in 2022. Here's how to do it.

Content marketing, meet the media business
Photo by Andrae Ricketts / Unsplash

If your marketing strategy is heavily weighted to an inbound methodology and your content marketing program doesn’t look like a media operation, you will be left behind in 2022. It's time to rethink your approach.

A (very) brief history of content marketing

Content marketing traces its history back nearly 300 hundred years to 1732 when Benjamin Franklin first published Issuance of Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote his printing business.

In the intervening centuries, content played a critical role as companies fought to differentiate themselves in the market. Its influence as a primary marketing tactic ebbed and flowed over that time, with companies using print publications as a way to extend their brand beyond the core product (think the Michelin Guide, first published in 1900).

With advertising dominating the 1940s and 1950s in no small part thanks to the invention of television, it wasn't until the early 2000s that the internet, blogs, social media, and email marketing fundamentally altered how companies reach and engage with their audiences. But still, the written word dominated until the past few years.

Content marketing obviously isn't new, and it survived centuries as a highly effective marketing tactic by adapting to technology and business trends.  

Why 2022 is a bellwether for content media

To say that content marketing as a ubiquitous tactic is an understatement. From blogs like this, to enterprise content production, to user generated content on social media, we are awash in a sea of content.

It is now incredibly difficult to differentiate a brand on content alone. While most successful marketers take a more integrated approach—leveraging multiple tactics appropriate to their specific target markets—any marketers focused exclusively on an inbound content strategy need to differentiate.

The way forward for these businesses is to structure their content function like a media operation. Not only the breadth of media—print, digital, audio, video—but also the roles and workflows. Quality matters, as it always has. In 2022, velocity matters too.

Out-contenting your competition

So, where to start? Your first step is to reconcile that you're about to build a media property. It will need to be staffed across a rage of production capabilities, and at the scale needed to meet your objectives.

An example of a business on this journey is threat intelligence company Recorded Future, who launched a publication called The Record. This is in addition to the massive amount of content on their website, including their blog, research, podcasts, ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, videos, and webinars.

In an article by AP News (May 30, after initial publication of this post), Recorded Future's CEO, Christopher Ahlberg, shared his vision for The Record:

We want to build a Bloomberg terminal for cybersecurity. We want all the data, all the analytics, all the research, all the news in one place. So a threat intel person, a government analyst, a security generalist can have the best intel at their fingertips.

Recorded Future is building a media business because it's core to their strategic objectives, and not for the sake of "content marketing." Your content and media strategy should similarly be aligned with your long-term view of the world.

When I built a media property back in 2006, I researched, wrote, edited, and published about 10,000 words per week. It was a lot of work, and led to the site growing to about 100,000 monthly visitors within 9-months of launch.

You'll need to produce more content, that's more relevant to your audience, at a higher quality, and velocity, than your competitors. The Record employs six journalists, and you should include an operations headcount focused on data analysis.

Learn what your audience wants to consume and produce more of it.

It's about your audience, not leads

Assuming you build a successful content media business, you should expect pressure from within the organization to monetize the asset. You'll have hundreds of thousands of audience members providing enough data to deliver real-time intent signals to the revenue team.

There needs to be a moat around the media property. If it's compromised, you run a real risk of losing your audience. Defending this is potentially your most difficult challenge.

Lastly, don't forget that your readers, viewers, or listeners came to you because you have a unique view of the world. Be daring. Be brave. Have an opinion. Never lose sight that you're in the business of storytelling.

It is a great time to be a marketer, especially if you are given the resources you need to be successful. Good luck to us all.