Today, Contently, a marketplace where brands meet journalists, has launched a publication that simultaneously heralds the decline of journalism and the rise of “content marketing.” The Content Strategist promises “Insights and analysis on brands, storytelling, and the future of content.”
Aimed at brands, publishers, and freelancers, The Content Strategist features analysis, video interviews, and in-depth stories. The inaugural issue carries stories such as “The US Government Has a Content Problem (And Your Brand May Too),” “How Market Research Is Flawed – And Content Can Replace It,” and “What Journalists Can Learn From Content Marketers” – along with a plethora of other stories with headlines that start with the word “What.”
If you’re a journalist who cares about the increasing commercialization of the inverted pyramid, it’s a punch in the guts. If you’re a journalist who cares about making money, it’s an interesting sign of the times.
The Content Strategist is essentially a signal that content marketing, in which brands act as publishers, has reached critical mass. “We think that content marketing as an industry is big enough and important that it deserves its own publication,” says Sam Slaughter, Contently’s vice president of content. The company launched the publication because it saw a need for an authoritative voice in the space. It is managed by Caroline McCarthy, formerly of Google, CBS, CNET, and Quartz.
The rise of content marketing has been helped along by the decline of the CPM ad unit, which is getting cheaper and cheaper, providing diminishing returns for previously pageview-driven publishers. New media upstarts such as Vice and BuzzFeed have made sponsored content – or “native advertising” – the centerpiece of their business models, but even old-timers like The Atlantic are jumping on the bandwagon, as evidenced by the fracas over its recent Scientology advetorial.
Content marketing is one of the chief reasons New York-based Contently, which has raised $2 million in funding, appears to making headway as a startup. The company connects brands who want content produced with the journalists who can produce it. The idea is that it’s getting harder and harder to make money as a freelance journalist, and that brands, rather than publishers, will increasingly become the journalist’s paylords.
Slaughter sees the rise of content marketing as a “huge opportunity” for freelance journalists, many of whom find themselves hustling for scraps of work from magazines and newspapers whose budgets are rapidly shrinking – or vanishing. “A lot of journalists worry that they’re going to be writing advertorial copy,” he says, “but as content marketing has matured it’s become apparent that the people that are doing it right are publishers just like any other publishers.”
Slaughter says the company is treating The Content Strategist, which carries no advertising, as a loss leader. It’s a proof of concept, he says, that shows any brand can create a legitimate publication from scratch while leveraging the Contently network. “For us, building a mag that competes with any other mag is proof that our business makes sense.”
And this new-media publication will even come with a twist: a quarterly print version. “We’ve seen that a lot of forward-thinking brands have been putting out really nice looking print magazines,” explains Slaughter. “It’s a really nice way to aggregate the content they’ve done over a long period of time.” It’s also a handy way to appeal to the C-suite, he says.
And, let’s face it – they’re the ones who are paying for a lot of “journalism” these days anyway.