Content Marketing Fortnight VII: The Pains And Joys Of Going Mainstream

What’s happening (that’s important) in the world of content marketing? This is your fortnightly round-up of the best of the best stuff online for marketers who think about content; for the previous “Fortnights”, go to the bottom of the post. (And for more information about what the Content Marketing Fortnight is, see my intro from the first one. Get this curated newsletter in your inbox every other week – send me a mail.)

NewsCred scores $25 million. Tech news: “What’s content marketing?”
It’s no $16 billion, but the $25 million Newscred raised to expand its content marketing cloud offering is no insignificant sum. The company is moving fast to help brands win relevance with content, boasting a unique weapon (licensing for premium content with thousands of top-shelf sites). Re-code – previously the Wall Street Journal’s tech team – was taken aback, asking, “What’s content marketing?” Percolate’s Noah Brier answered them.

Federated Media, a content marketing pioneer, backs out of content marketing
No one company (except Wordpress, perhaps) more epitomized content marketing than Federated Media, and now they’re abandoning it. The company sold its content marketing interests to LIN Media, and rebranded as SVRN, which will put all of its focus on programmatic advertising. Some might interpret this as a sign of content marketing’s weakness; the truth lies more in the heavy service nature of content marketing compared to ad tech.

The content marketing world will be gamed
For those who think that content marketing will remain unsullied by black hat SEO or like-buying, turn away now. Microsoft commissioned gaming site Machinima to promote Xbox One, and Machinima dutifully agreed to pay its video partners an extra $3 CPM for content taken from Xbox one games. When some objected that it was unclear that this was paid content (including Ars Technica), Microsoft said it knew nothing. Oh, and Pinterest doesn’t want people to get paid for pinning stuff, but you can still pay people to pin stuff (if that makes sense). Smells like dodgy content marketing strategies here.

Facebook will now let you retarget people
Now Facebook joins Twitter and Google in allowing marketers to put a tracking pixel on their site and app, so that they can deliver ads (or content) to specific people on Facebook who have already been to their website. This offer is a good complement to the likes of OneSpot and ResonanceHQ, who help marketers retarget content pieces for one-time site visitors using display ad inventory.

Trackmaven raises $6.5 million in funding
This clever little competitive intelligence tool lets marketers figure out what’s working for their competitors across dozens of digital channels, and steal ideas. With the money, the company plans to pull in more data sources and link deeper into marketers’ BI tools, and presumably market itself more aggressively. Most businesses are on a learning curve for content marketing; a tool like this steepens it a bit.

Twilight of (dumb?) brands
The guy who wrote that great little book about wisdom of the crowds wrote a piece for the New Yorker that eulogizes brand-building. He’s right and wrong here. Brands do work differently in an information-rich environment; they need to become more sophisticated information sources. A good read nonetheless (I’ll be citing this piece in my presentation at ML Forum in a couple months).

Now content marketing has a LUMAScape too!
Content marketing’s made it. It now has its own LUMAScape (with a best supporting actor from native advertising). Terence Kawaja’s lumped hundreds of vendors into the groups: Content creation, content curation, content marketing agency, vertically integrated network, content analytics, inventory creation, content planning and amplification, content recommendations and promoted listing (along with a bunch of native ad and social slots). No guidance on how all of this fits together; that remains for Forrester – coming in March.

It’s not all roses for content start-ups
Editorially, a tool for collaborative editing very popular with the content strategy cognoscenti, had to close due to a lack of sufficient income. Lesson: Even in a growing space and with a crowd of passionate fans, you can still fail. Presumably, the broader mid-market Editorially needed to sway didn’t see the point. Pity.

Content-powered ecommerce definitely now a thing
The number of content marketing-centric ecommerce sites climbs steadily. Fashion brand Frank & Oak spends more than 35% of its marketing budget on editorial operations. Going the other direction, Outside magazine’s launched a travel business. People who sell stuff, doing media. People who do media, selling stuff. Oh, and Net-A-Porter’s doing a clickable print magazine.

Guardian dives into native ads with £1+ million Unilever deal
The Guardian’s hired a media agency exec, opened an in-house content agency and promptly scored a blue-chip deal with Unilever to publish sustainable living stories on its own sites (The Guardian, The Observer and guardian.com) and off-site. The trolling commentators are worth a scan. This “content agency inside a publisher” is a first of its kind in Europe, as far as I can tell. Alea iacta est.

Facebook (heart) content
Facebook’s mooted that it’ll crack down on spammy clickbait content, and some media sites that push that content have seemingly taken a hit. But Facebook’s love for content never flagged; it now launches a new app – Paper – whose only job in life is to present content beautifully on mobile phones. Last summer, I said apps like Pocket would prove inspirational to designers. On mobile, users suffer no cruft.

Now everyone can be a LinkedIn Influencer
First, it was only for Richard Branson, Conan O’Brien and Meg Whitman; now you too can be a LinkedIn Influencer (soon). Really, it was about time LinkedIn opened content creation for anyone; I mean, why not?

Content marketing of the fortnight
GE’s always been one to break new turf in the content marketing world, so they’re certainly worth following. Their latest gig? Teaming up with new Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon to feature bright young things and their inventions. GE gets native advertising right: Clear link to their brand and mission and clear value. But was it clearly labeled as promotion? You be the judge.