Content marketing, like so many emerging forces in the publishing business, could either be the savior of the industry or the death of media as we know it — it all depends on who you ask. Less controversial is the idea that, as ad dollars on both sides of the print and digital divide become more elusive, publishers would be remiss in not exploring every opportunity for supplemental revenue available to them.
As one of the world's most accomplished content marketers, POP's Joe McCambley has helped brands like Microsoft, Starbuck's, and Nike achieve their storytelling goals while advising publishers as diverse as The Huffington Post, National Geographic, and AARP on organizing their own content strategies.
A featured speaker at the 2016 Folio: Show, McCambley sat down with Folio: to discuss one of the hottest topics in the business today as a preview of the insight he'll offer next week on the panel, "Solutions and Techniques That Make Content Marketing Work."
Folio: What's the biggest thing missing from most content marketing initiatives today?
Joe McCambley: The most important aspect of content marketing today, and the part that I think is most missing from marketer efforts, is content strategy. My concern for publishers sometimes is that they might think of content strategy as strategy for one idea, one piece of content that they’ll promote and use to drive people to this one experience. Where they could really help brands is in acknowledging that content strategy doesn’t encompass one piece of promotion, it encompasses many.
When you’re a brand today trying to get 1,000 pieces of work out the door, how do you manage workflow for something like that? This is all stuff that publishers have been doing for years and really doing well. My advice for publishers would be to expand their thinking and say to brands, “We create thousands of pieces of content throughout the year. Let us help you with this.”
Folio: With that in mind, would you advise publishers to treat content marketing operations the same way they would treat everything else in their workflow?
McCambley: No, I think that would be death. They really have to be mindful of the divisions between church and state. I think too many publishers are letting those lines bleed over onto each other and it’s confusing for consumers.
If I were a publisher today, I might go to someone like Walmart and say, “We understand that when you’re creating 100 pieces of content around a topic, it’s really smart to have a managing editor that oversees all of that work.”
If you have a managing editor who is a subject matter expert and is making sure that all of the work they do reinforces everything good about your brand and that the workflow is flawless, that could be really helpful to an advertiser. I wouldn’t take an existing managing editor, but I might bring in one have them work as part of a brand studio.
Folio: What do you see as the ongoing role of publishers in all of this? What’s preventing brands from using their own distribution channels to reach consumers directly?
McCambley: Let’s say you’re an expert at making airplanes, and for the past ten years your profit margins have been suffering and you’ve been laying people off. Then, for whatever reason, a separate group of brands decides airplanes are the most important aspect of the success of their future, and all of a sudden every brand on earth is looking for airplanes. All of a sudden, what you make is in high demand.
I think publishers are in the same boat. Ever since 2007, when the iPhone came out and consumers started going mobile, brands began realizing that to get consumer attention, they had to create content. There’s a huge demand for the content that publishers have typically created.
Folio: What else can publishers be doing to make themselves more attractive to brands from a content marketing standpoint?
McCambley: What publishers don’t have an expertise on is business strategy and brand strategy. Publishers are great at taking one piece of content and making it excellent, but I don’t think they’re great at understanding what brands stand for entirely. If I were a publisher, I would create outreach to agencies that own brand relationships on the advertiser end and work very closely with them.
Folio: Is there an opportunity here for smaller publishers who might not have the resources to begin their own in-house studio?
McCambley: Yes, it’s a huge opportunity. If you’re a smaller publisher, you probably focus on a niche of some sort, where you’ve got a very high level of expertise. Maybe you can’t afford to set up a separate studio, but somehow you’ve got to find it within your organization to carve out a distinct area focused on bringing your expertise to advertisers or marketers. I still would caution them not to use their existing resources.
Folio: What’s the next big trend that's going to shake up content marketing?
McCambley: We’re starting to see that the people that own content within large brand organizations are getting rapidly promoted into CMO positions. Content is going to become a state of mind more than a tactical deliverable — less about an article and more about that helpful utilitarian attitude. Content and advertising, at least on the brand side, are going to become less distinct from one another.
Second, some agencies are going to start waking up to the fact that they have really highly conceptual people at a time when content really needs high concept. Big ideas are going to start infusing all of the content brands create, and I think that’s something that’s missing right now.
For more information about the Folio: Show, taking place November 1 and 2 in New York, click here.