Is Content Marketing Journalism?
Content marketing is seen by many as the upstart, cheeky little brother of journalism. To its critics, content marketing is an unworthy, slightly seedy way to publish content. Traditional journalism, say its advocates, is not about making money. It’s about investigation, debate and independent opinion, compared to content marketing’s sales pitch approach.
Is content marketing really so lacking in journalistic credibility and technique? Or do content marketing and journalism have a bit more in common than some would have you believe?
How content marketing can be journalism
Content marketing and journalism are not completely different and separate activities. They are both line of writing and content production that includes all kinds of writing and research activities, from front-page news articles in major broadsheets, to investigative citizen journalism, to company e-books and blogs, to tabloid celebrity gossip. In the past, there was only really one type of content production: print journalism.
The internet has changed that. Anyone can be a journalist now (whether they are any good or not is another question, of course!). Anyone can also be a publisher. This means that there is much more content out there than there once was, but not all of it is good.
Unless the person writing the content is doing it for free, there are always financial interests involved in publishing. Those who criticise content marketing claim that because it is not being produced for publishers but for commercial businesses with other interests than publishing, that it cannot be objective. The obvious counter argument is that very little journalism is objective either. Traditional journalists write in the interests of the company they work for, who is paying them.
What many don’t realise is that good content marketing is journalism in another form. Good branded content is not focussed on getting sales, it’s focussed on being interesting and relevant. To be interesting and relevant, content marketers need to write as well as journalists do on subjects that people want to read about. A content marketer (or a journalist working in content marketing?) will research what their audience is interested in, research and write their article, publish it and then use social media to discuss it and measure its success. A traditional journalist will do exactly the same, except that they may well skip the last stage, which for content marketers is vital.
Content marketing is often more people-focussed than traditional journalism. It looks constantly at what its readers are interested in, what they like to do and where they like to hang out online. Content marketing is about engagement, discussion and feedback. The readers become part of the process and part of the distribution network, with the most read articles being those that people like and share the most.
But however it is written, published, distributed and discussed: good content is good content. That’s what matters to readers. Shouldn’t it be what matters to the rest of us, too?