In this month’s Harvard Business Review, The Content Marketing Revolution smells like concentrated essence of evil; an unironic paean to the take-over of journalism, and public conversation, by marketeers.

I recommend reading it, if only for shock value; here are a couple of out-takes for flavor.

Brands are no longer merely peddling products; they’re producing, unearthing, and distributing information. And because they do, the corporation becomes not just economically important to society, but intellectually essential as well.

Just a sec, be right back.

Sorry, had to make an unexpected run for the loo there; hate it when that happens. Let’s try again.

Branded content is a brave new world and a brand’s editorial team, regardless of how it’s organized, must learn to live and breathe a company’s bottom line while also being mindful of the kinds of stories that appeal to readers.

Just a sec, be right back.

I guess that’s the new ethos of journalism: the employer’s bottom line plus the kinds of stories that appeal. Author Alexander Jutkowitz is on the board of overseers of the Columbia Journalism Review so I guess this represents mainstream thinking on the profession’s future.

The examples (GE, Red Bull, Shutterstock) are actually sort of thought-provoking. I guess the core message is that a commercial organization should try to make its online presence, you know, interesting. And just like they say in writing school: Write What You Know.

This works better for organizations which actually produce useful things and thus know useful things, for example GE, as opposed to Red Bull, which is left offering cool ski movies to those “looking for news content”.

This is more evidence for my argument that use of the word “Content” carries its own stench of futility and failure.

This article taught me that “Content Marketing” now has its own statuette-dispensary, the Digiday Awards; isn’t it stylish how all the beautiful young white Content Marketing things have their cupcakes carried in to them by a dusky servitor? Just a sec, be right back.

There is a silver lining: “Of course, not all brands can—or should—be expected to cover scientific breakthroughs or economic theory”. Yeah, please don’t, OK?


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: rich bowen (Jul 07 2014, at 10:24)

I just love it when people use the phrase "brave new world" with, apparently, no clue what baggage the phrase carries.


From: Ryan Cousineau (Jul 07 2014, at 13:25)

OK, yay, we're all pulling as one for your Two Minutes Hate on Content Marketing (and if you like this, you might really enjoy the book "Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator" by Ryan Holiday).

But "dusky servitor"? Even ironically? Because of course, the right move would have been for the caterer to ensure no blacks were hired for such an event, or for the event photographer to carefully avoid shooting the help, or for the organization to quietly edit that shot off of their site.

(Yes, I get the idea that it's notable that the only black people at the event may have been the catering staff; but it's a bit rich to complain about racial composition on so little provocation.)


From: ThirteenthLetter (Jul 08 2014, at 00:48)

To be fair, a sloppy and evidence-free accusation of racism is so obligatory in any critique of anything these days that Tim probably didn't even notice he was making it.


From: Dave Walker (Jul 08 2014, at 06:11)

To my mind, Jeff Hammerbacher nailed it: "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads," he says. "That sucks."

I admit I tend to mis-remember it as something a bit closer to Ginsberg's original: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by being tasked with the question of how to make people click on ads".

I can also see how it could send a good mind starving and hysterical - not sure about the naked, though.


From: Ian (Jul 08 2014, at 07:28)

This is the long established in-flight magazine model. Done well, they can be interesting without drenching the reader in corporate propaganda.

However, as to replacing the salons of the 17th century Enlightenment....get me a bucket too.


From: len (Jul 08 2014, at 12:16)

So online marketing is 1960s TV when the advertiser ruthlessly controlled content. News at eleven to use an old cliche. That period lasted barely a decade before content producers began to rebel and paint outside the lines.

So we look at another article where in the digital implosion of music marketing Tweety Bird claims art has value and the artist must control it yet the article author notes that the music is free but "the experience" has value and is "scarce" therefore Tweety Bird is now more valuable than her music, thus the rise of the Brand as if in the 1960s it was more important to be seen with a box of Dash detergent than to have clean dishes. And it was. For a time.

Only a few of us care what Stephen Hawking has to say and fewer can understand it. And if he doesn't "smoke the same cigarettes as me", don't believe him anyway.

Freedom requires a certain mental toughness in good weather or bad, Hiram.


From: Vanderleun (Jul 09 2014, at 16:08)

Mighty white of Tim to whip out his "stick in my thumb and pull out a plum and say what a good boy am I" preen with "dusky servitor."

Mighty white of him indeed.


From: felicty (Jul 10 2014, at 01:20)

GE, as one of the top-20 arms producers in the world, is indeed useful and interesting...


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