For The Right Content Marketing Answers, Ask The Right Content Strategy Questions

content-marketing-featuredA big box retailer’s chief content officer of reached out recently with a question. Here’s what he wanted to know:

What is the percentage of content you see utilized comparatively that’s company generated versus user-generated versus contributor generated? I’m trying to see how others are looking at their mix.”

What would you have told him?

The proportional mix of content marketing tactics is a topic I haven’t researched as an analyst. While it would be interesting to explore, I suspect there’s never going to be a “right” answer — as is common in the marketing world, it ultimately depends on your business. In other words, it doesn’t matter what the other guys are doing. What matters is what’s right for you.

In addition to company-, user- and contributor-content, there are other sources of content as well, such as aggregated and curated content. All can contribute significantly to a content mix. Similarly, they can be components of different campaigns and initiatives.

Dell’s Tech Page One, for example, combines company + commissioned + curated content (as does their newly launched native advertising campaign in the NY Times).

Virgin, Blackberry and Intel all support robust content curation/aggregation sites in addition to creating significant content in the other buckets mentioned above. My company encourages individual analysts to create original content on our personal blogs and other social media channels, in addition to the research we publish and make available under Creative Commons.

Many retailers these days (though not the company that reached out to me with this question) are encouraging store associates to create content, often equipping them with mobile devices that allow them to tweet, post, photograph and video from the showroom floor. And of course, another tried-and-true retail content cornerstone is user-generated content — everything from user reviews to unboxing videos.

The right mix of content will always be “it depends.” If you’re selling jeans or computers to shoppers at the mall, it probably doesn’t matter that much what Red Bull or Intel or SAP are doing, content-wise. Their activities may provide ideas and inspiration — but at the end of the day, you’re in a different vertical, selling a different product, and targeting a different audience. Your content strategy needs to be aligned with your own business goals, not with someone else’s.

Content Strategy Is The Foundation Of Content Marketing

At the end of the day, the mix of content channels, media, and tactics loops back to content strategy. Virgin’s strategy is to reach millennials via news, both on their curated site and with native offerings on Buzzfeed. Intel created IQ so its staff could reach out to contacts in the industry, potential clients, etc., with targeted, relevant content. More original content that they themselves produce resides in other channels and serves other strategic goals.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

Q&A With New York Times Meredith Kopit Levien on Native Advertising Launch

Meredith_Kopit_Levien_NYTimes

All prognostications for 2014 (including my own) point to native advertising as A Big Thing to watch this year – and it is. The FTC’s December workshop thrust native into the spotlight, but nothing has amplified the fact that native advertising has arrived more than the New York Times launch of Paid Posts, its native product that launched this week with Dell as the first advertiser.

Late as the Grey Lady may be to the party (virtually all other members of the Online Publishers Association already have some form of native advertising on offer), the Times is the Times; a standard bearer in media, publishing and journalistic best practices.

Native advertising has been both delayed and controversial at the newspaper of record. Executive Editor Jill Abramson has expressed strong reservations. Publisher and Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. very recently distributed a native advertising “manifesto” to staff.

So with the new product finally launched, I caught up with the Times’ EVP Advertising Meredith Kopit Levien to pose some questions about native advertising at the Times. Most are based around the best practice recommendations in my recent research on the topic of native advertising (download available here).

Q: Native advertising is highly labor intensive and requires “feeding the beast” with content. Your first advertiser, Dell, is led by Managing Editor Stephanie Losee, who has  a very strong editorial background. Will the Times have difficulties finding other clients up to this challenge?

Levien: We see a lot of clients who have developed their own newsrooms or who have always-on content strategies. Social media gave everybody the opportunity to be a publisher. The amount of maturity in the marketing is growing. There are a whole lot of marketers who have an always-on content strategy. Using that in conjunction with the Times’ content division is how we’ll produce content. Intel [another enterprise with a very mature content organization] and a handful of others will launch this quarter.

Q: What formal policies does the TImes have in places around church/state divisions? 

Levien: We’ll establish more over time. The brightest, clearest, most important is the newsroom is the newsroom. It does not touch [Paid Posts]. That will not change. That’s an important separation to keep. The others fall out from that. Also, Paid Posts carry a label and full disclosure.

Q: The Times is hiring freelancers to write Paid Post content. Can these same freelancers also write for the editorial sections of the paper?

Levien: That’s an evolving discussion.

 Q: Dell’s commitment is three months. What about other advertisers’ commitments? And given this is a premium product, will you limit how many advertisers can run Paid Posts at any given time?

Levien: We are establishing minimums. We don’t want to do this as a one-off. We also require that all content be original, not repurposed for the Times.  We’re not in any danger of the consumer thinking there’s too much of this on the site.

Q: If advertisers can’t bring their own content in, can they get your content to-go, so to say?

Levien: Once we co-produce the piece, the marketer can do with that what they want – the marketer has ownership. That’s the to-go model: using our content for their purposes.

Q: What metrics is the New York Times tracking to gauge the success of this program?

Levien: We are using an incredible vendor named SimpleReach. They have built a custom metrics dashboard. They give a marketer the same metrics the newsroom uses: pages, views, etc., also social referrals. How much traction is the content getting compared to editorial content? Secondly, is it trending on the social web, and if it is, what can we do to amplify it?

Q: Many publishers offering native advertising solutions, like Hearst and Buzzfeed, are offering training and educational programs to advertisers and agencies. Will the New York Times follow suit?

Levien:  Certainly in the early months we’re going to do collaborative education with the partners we bring on. It’s not out of the question we wouldn’t turn that into a program.  We have a  lot of knowledge about how content moves through our platform.

Q: There’s a great deal of role confusion when it comes to native advertising. Brands, their advertising agencies, PR agencies – everyone is jostling for position in this space. Who do you anticipate you going to work with?

Levien: There is  much more transition that will happen between paid owned and earned media. We’re mostly working with the brands, but there’s a huge role for the ad agencies and the PR agencies. Lots of brands have agencies who are helping to add to their content capabilities. We’ve tried to organize in a way that’s friendly to an agency buying.

Nine Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2014

crystal-ballLongtime readers know not to expect a list of annual “predictions” so prevalent in trade publications this time of year. After all, I’m an industry analyst. Un-endowed with the psychic abilities that would enable me to read crystal balls or entrails, I must instead rely on my innate powers of observation and analysis.

That’s not said casually. Observation and analysis of digital marketing and media is what I do.  Based on industry movement, technology developments, and industry trends, these are the areas I’ll be watching most closely in the new year.

  1. Enterprises Organize for Content  The hue and cry up to a year or so ago from content marketing evangelists was “hire a chief content officer!” The sentiment behind this exhortation was and remains correct: content strategy is the foundation of content marketing. To create, maintain and enforce strategy, guidelines, processes, governance and guardrails are entirely necessary. However not every board is disposed to create a new C-level position. That’s why companies are taking seriously the need to organize for content marketing.  Last spring we identified six real-world models. Expect to see companies begin to adopt these with some alacrity in 2014.
  2. Native Advertising Will Surge Brands, publishers, agencies, technology vendors – virtually the entire digital advertising ecosystem has a stake in the ground when it comes to native advertising. The IAB and the FTC have chimed in with the beginnings of defining the space and the rules of engagement. Virtually all the members of the Online Publishers Association now offer some form of native advertising, and major brands are allocating budget for serious experiments. You’re going to hear a lot more about this form of converged media (paid + owned) in the coming months.
  3. Real-Time Marketing Another form of converged media is real-time marketing,  the strategy and practice of reacting with immediacy in digital channels.  As more channels and media operate in real-time, and as real-time events such as television converge with digital channel on mobile and social media platforms, virtually all marketers will be challenged this year to define a real-time marketing strategy, and indeed to determine what real-time means for their organization and marketing efforts.
  4. Content Marketing ‘Stacks’ Emerge It’s already happening. Adobe has formally announced what we’ve long known they would: their Marketing and Creative Clouds will merge. Oracle bought Compendium and Eloqua (expect Salesforce to do something very, very similar quite soon – ExactTarget isn’t quite in the content bucket).  This trend indicates 2014 will usher in an important new chapter in content marketing maturity: end-to-end, cloud-based technology solutions similar to ad stacks, rather than the boutique array of much more limited solutions that are currently available. This matters not just as a technology play, but as something that will make content a safer and more integrated enterprise investment.
  5. Media Continue to Converge Paid, earned and owned media continue to collapse into blended forms of marketing. This trend is only accelerating with consumer trends such as cord-cutting, that make platforms such as television even more digital than they formerly were. Concurrently, OOH signage and other forms of media are more digital, too, allowing owned content and forms of shared media such as tweets to circulate freely through media ecosystem.
  6. Breaking Down Silos If number 6 comes as a surprise, you clearly haven’t read the first five trends. Media converging, a greater emphasis on content marketing, native advertising, real-time marketing and other blended forms of marketing means teams must collaborate more than every before. Goal alignment, resource sharing, and content portability – none of this happens internally, much less with vendor and agency partners, unless barriers and divisions are smashed.  There’s no more time to wait. Silos must be abolished now.
  7.  Interoperability Much more than a byproduct of convergence, apps, gadgets, devices are becoming interoperable – seamlessly interoperable. AS a for instance, my personal fitness monitor smoothly syncs with my Android phone, laptop computer, iPad, Walgreen’s loyalty card, stand-alone weight and food trackers, and (if I wanted, which I don’t) with all my social media accounts. All this at the flick of preference radio buttons. The days or “either/or” “Mac/Windows” customer experience are over. Customers expect – and demand – seamlessness from their digital life.
  8. More Mobile Yeah, we hear this every year, but mobile really has come to the fore. More smartphones and tablets are flying off the shelves than PCs and laptops, and mobile finally commands more consumer time than the boob-tube.  This means new experiences, media strategies and (looping back to the top of the list) more content, real-time and native in marketing plans.  “Mobile first” is no longer a hollow mantra. It’s really, actually true.
  9. Measuring What’s Undefined  Is this really a genuine trend? I hope it will be. There’s this unrealistic expectation in digital that everything’s measurable. It is, but not necessarily right out of the box. That’s why publisher metrics are applied to native advertising campaigns (though goals are widely divergent), and way too much stuff is measured in terms of “engagement,” which means something different to everyone who utters the term. A trend I’d really LIKE to see in 2014 is, in additional to all kinds of good metrics such as the ability to attribute ROI and measure accountably and aligned with goals, is a readiness to admit that it’s just too early to apply hard-and-fast, unalterable metrics to brand new stuff we’re all still trying to figure out. Square pegs, round holes.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Plan for Real-Time Marketing Execution

Part one of this two-part series examined how organizations plot strategy for real-time marketing (RTM), based on “Real Time Marketing: The Agility to Leverage ‘Now,’” research Altimeter Group recently published on the topic.

Once strategy is in place, it’s time to turn to RTM execution, in particular enabling it to happen in a seamless, scalable way.

Assemble team and tools

Successful RTM requires that the right constituents be available, informed, educated, and empowered. Assemble the proper teams (i.e., social, creative, copywriting, legal, PR, etc.) and tools (i.e., listening, analytics, design, digital assets, publishing tools, etc.) to ensure streamlined execution. Multiple companies we interviewed underscored the importance of having a “war room,” akin to a newsroom, where all team members are literally present and able to collaborate — in real-time.

For unplanned, reactive RTM execution, the existing content hub or social media team takes the lead. Alternately, a pre-identified and trained virtual team leaps into action.

For anticipated events, a war room is often the hub, driving real-time approvals, design, triage, and publication. Even brands without 24/7 RTM teams can assemble trained and prepared teams for special events, as Oreo did for the Super Bowl.

For anticipated or planned events with content created in advance, assemble teams with regularly scheduled meetings to discuss event strategies and guidelines and identify areas of opportunity.

Establish triage

Scenario-based triage is one of the single most effective ways to streamline RTM execution. Certain cues or events trigger repeatable workflows. Community managers should be able to identify what types of language indicate threats or risks for the brand, and how and when to escalate them to legal, PR, or the appropriate team. When developing RTM content, consider how users may respond, then identify what warrants response and build workflows based on positive and negative interactions or needs. The more detail provided, the more teams accounted for, and the more scenarios planned for, the better.

Train and test all parties

A big part of operating in real-time is enabling key employees to feel trusted and empowered to act. This level of confidence is only achieved via education and training across all stakeholders — not only those posting and responding but those creating, approving, distributing, and monitoring, both internally and externally (i.e., agencies and vendors). Training should include both strategic and tactical elements.

Training tools and testing will vary by organization based on resources and stakeholders. The goal of training and testing, however, is universal: to establish confidence for those executing and trust in them by all stakeholders, management, and the brand at large.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published.

Why Content Strategy Is Foundational To Real-Time Marketing

When the curtain went up on the Emmy Awards, HBO was ready.

As usual, the cable network was nominated for a plethora of awards. Naturally, there was no way of knowing who, or what programming, would win which categories. At the same time, there were plenty of knowns: those shows, actors, directors and talent who were nominated in each category.
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So, the social media team, led by VP of Digital and Social Media Sabrina Caluori, sprang into action weeks before the actual event. They created content for every possible award outcome. But first, they informed internal stakeholders (management, legal, communications) about their overall strategy and what the team planned to do and react to. From this, guidelines and rules of engagement were developed around the content, much of which was locked and loaded in advance of the event.

“We know we need freedom to develop content on the fly, but we need to know the guardrails [and] if anything we did needed to be escalated,” she said. “There are built-in parameters for the campaign.”

HBO aced the evening (mostly on Twitter) with responses to the awards, winners, and show itself that were immediate, timely, on-message and on-brand.

HBO is just one of the many brands we spoke with for a new research report, “Real-Time Marketing: The Agility to Leverage ‘Now’” (download available at no cost under Creative Commons).

We’ve identified six business use cases for real-time marketing (RTM) and outlined best practices based on our research. But if successful RTM boils down to just one thing, it’s having a clear, mature, fully developed content strategy in place before leveraging the “right now.”

RTM initiatives fall into a quadrant of initiatives that fall on a sliding scale between reactive/proactive and planned/unplanned. Being proactive and planning is ideally where you want to be when marketing in real-time, as illustrated in the above HBO example (there are many other such case examples in the report).

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published

The Six Business Cases for Real-Time Marketing

As digital channels operate increasingly in the ‘now,’ all marketing organizations must consider to what degree they will function in real-time, and even define what real-time is relative to their operations and marketing organization.

The payoff? That digital marketing ideal: the right message to the right person at the right time. The right instant, even.

Real-time marketing (RTM) can add tremendous value to customer interactions; making brands appear relevant, with-it, informed, dynamic and buzzworthy. The movement toward RTM is also driven by consumer expectations as immediacy, relevance and access increase with technology.

Our new research report, Real-Time Marketing: The Agility to Leverage ‘Now,’ identifies six business use cases for real-time marketing that fall into a quadrant of planned/unplanned and reactive vs. proactive interactions. In numerous interviews with agency and brand-side practitioners, we found all successful RTM requires enormous strategic and tactical preparation, beginning with a strong , clear and well-defined content strategy.

real-time marketing use case quadrant

RTM Use Case #1: Brand Events
Brand events include product launches, conferences, media and customer-facing events where content strategy, pre-approvals, media plans, hashtags, creative, editorial calendars, etc. can be prepared in advance. During events, staff are available to push out content and react to posts in social media.

RTM Use Case #2. Anticipated Event
A growing number of organizations are preparing for real-time events that are anticipated in advance. Business goals, strategies, teams, and approvals are ready, content is locked and loaded.

RTM Use Case #3: Location/object-based
A small but promising use case of RTM taps into location and object-based triggers. Hand-crafted examples of this type of RTM include local food trucks publicizing specials and current locations. Increasingly sophisticated technology, such as iBeacon, target a consumer’s location down to the store-shelf level and push a promotion to that person’s phone in the moment. That’s literally targeting the right person at the right time and the right place.

RTM Use Case #4. Predictive Analytics-based
Another relatively small but growing area of triggered RTM is based on predictive analytics. Amazon has long used predictive data to display recommendations to customers based on browsing and purchase history. This trend will gain momentum as data solutions become more accessible and simpler to implement.

RTM Use Case #5. Customer Interaction
Customer interactions take many forms: CRM, customer service, handling complaints, and community interactions being primary examples. While many organizations handle such interactions to customer service, the very public, visible and occasionally even viral nature of these interactions in social channels means they are increasingly becoming a marketing function. This holds particularly true now that customers have come to expect brands to respond to their digital queries and complaints in near-real time.

RTM Use Case #6. Breaking News
The most reactive form of RTM is responding in a legitimate, relevant manner to unanticipated breaking news. This can also be the riskiest, most spontaneous, and difficult type of RTM. Advance preparation is all but impossible. Breaking news isn’t always good news, so an acute degree of sensitivity is called for. Often, this also requires following a story as it unfolds. The opportunity is hitting it over the fence by appropriately leveraging the event in a way that is relevant, both to the event and to the brand.

As with all Altimeter Group research, Real-Time Marketing: The Agility to Leverage ‘Now’ is available at no cost under Creative Commons.  Help yourself!  And please let us know your reactions, as well as how your organization is functioning in real-time.

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Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog

How to Conduct a Content Audit

You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. You might think you know where you are, but without a thorough website content audit, it’s likely you don’t.

Why perform a content audit (which admittedly is a painstaking and exacting exercise)? Lots of reasons. It helps determine if digital content is relevant, both to customer needs and to the goals of the organization. Is content accurate and consistent? Does it speak in the voice of the organization? Is it optimized for search? And are technical frameworks, such as the content management system (CMS), up to the task of handling it? Finally, an audit helps assess needs: teams, workflow, management, and identifying gaps. It will also shape content governance and help determine the feasibility of future projects.

A content audit is a cornerstone of content strategy, which governs content marketing. The aim is to perform a qualitative analysis of all the content on a website (or in some cases, a network of sites and/or social media presences — any content for which your organization is responsible). A content audit is often performed in tandem with a content inventory, the process of creating a quantitative analysis of content.

Step 1: Create a content inventory

Create a content inventory by recording all the content on the site into a spreadsheet or a text document by page title or by URL. Organize this information in outline form (i.e., section heading, followed by sub-sections and pages). If it’s an e-commerce site, these headings and sub-headings might be something like Shoes > Women’s Shoes > Casual Shoes > Sandals > Dr. Scholl’s. A company website’s headings would align more closely with X Corporation > About Us > Management > John Doe.

Content strategist Kristina Halvorson recommends assigning a unique number to each section, sub-section, and page (e.g., 1.0, 1.1., 1.1.1, and so on). This can help tremendously in assigning particular pieces of content to the appropriate site section. Some content strategists also color-code different sections on spreadsheets. It gets down to a matter of personal preference, as well as the size and scale of the audit in question.

It’s also highly recommended that each section, sub-section, or page contain an annotation regarding who owns each piece of content, as well as the type of content: text, image, video, PDF, press release, product page, etc. Was the content created in-house? Who created it? Was it outsourced (e.g., third-party content, RSS feeds, blog entries, articles from periodicals)? Who’s responsible for creating, approving, and publishing each piece?

The resulting document is a content inventory. Now, it’s time to dig into the quality of the content — the content audit. For each of the following steps, it’s helpful to assign a grade or ranking to every page (e.g., a scale of one to five, with one being “pretty crappy” and five being “rockstar fantastic”).

Some practitioners say you can shortcut through certain site pages or sections, arguing that certain pieces of content are evergreen. While that can certainly be the case, a thorough perusal of every piece of content on every page just might surprise you. Elements that you thought were set in stone, or changed site-wide, have a nasty habit of coming up and biting you in the behind. For example, the page displaying the address of the office your company moved out of five years ago, or the “contact” email address pointing to a long since departed employee.

So long as you’re taking the time to audit the content, it pays to audit all the content.

Step 2: What’s it about?

What subjects and topics does the content address? Are page and section titles, headlines, and sub-heads promising what’s actually delivered in the on-page copy? Is there a good balance of content addressing products, services, customer service, and “about us” information?

Step 3: Is it accurate and up-to-date?

In a word, is the content topical? Are there outdated products, hyperlinks, or outdated and/or inaccurate information lurking in nooks and crannies of the site? As mentioned above, localities, employees, pricing, industry data and statistics, and other information change over time. In addition to checking for factual accuracy, content that is outdated should be identified as “update/revise” or “remove.”

Step 4: Does it support both user and business goals?

Many constituencies feed into a company’s digital presence: senior management, sales, marketing and PR, and customer service, to name but a few. Different divisions could be trying to achieve varying goals in “their” section of a site or blog, but fundamentally all content must very gracefully serve two masters: the needs of the business and the needs of the customer. This means, for example, that calls-to-action must be clear, but not so overwhelming that they get in the way of the user experience. The content audit grades content on its ability to achieve both of these goals while staying in balance.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published

Real Time Marketing: How Brands Can Prepare And Succeed

Oreo. Starbucks. American Express. Dell. These are brands that come to mind when the topic of real-time marketing (RTM) arises — as it does with increasing frequency these days.

Big DataReal-time is gaining traction for all kinds of reasons. Arecent study by GolinHarris demonstrates real-time can raise literally all desirable marketing metrics.

Eighty-three percent of marketers say they plan to begin to use, or to increase their use of, real-time data in marketing campaigns this year, according to Infogroup Targeting Solutions and Yesmail Interactive (pdf). The movement toward RTM is undeniable.

Real-Time Marketing

As a research analyst, I’m currently digging into this topic (expect a report on the subject in early December). We’ve identified five real-time marketing use case scenarios. All of them support varying business goals; all require real-time capabilities (the advantages and challenges of which our report will address); yet, all require a different balance of strategy, tactics and preparation.

1. Breaking News

The most reactive form of real-time marketing is responding in a legitimate, relevant manner to unanticipated breaking news. This is often the most spontaneous, challenging and difficult type of RTM that a brand can face.

Advance preparation is all but impossible, and very frequently, breaking news isn’t good news, so an acute degree of sensitivity is called for. The requirement is often not just getting a polished message out in a short period of time in reaction to a news event, but also following the arc of a story as it unfolds. “Real time” can last many hours, days, or even weeks or months.

Examples: The BP Gulf oil spill; airlines reacting to the Icelandic volcano eruption; Boston Marathon bombing, etc.

2. Brand Events

Product launches, corporate conferences, media and customer-facing events, offers, and sales all are breaking news events, but of a very different sort. While they unfold in real time, this type of RTM requires a high degree of anticipatory preparation in addition to on-the-spot reactive work.

Content strategy, pre-approvals, media and channel plans, hashtags, creative elements, editorial calendars, etc., can all be prepared and approved in advance. On-the-ground “street teams” are often needed, but the environment is more controlled and guardrails are in place.

Examples: Pepsi’s introduction of a skinny can during Fashion Week; American Express Small Business Saturday; Pizza Hut/Foursquare/Super Bowl check-in promo, etc.

3. Customer Interaction

Customers have come to expect brands to respond to their digital queries and complaints in near-real time, a reality that has compelled more than one enterprise to adopt RTM. Real-time marketing related to customer interactions requires a combination of both reactive and anticipatory work: triage, determining what types of messaging will be responded to and in which channels (public or private), empowering staff to address complaints, having a breaking news communications plan ready for crises, etc.

Examples: CRM, customer service, crisis management, handling complaints, community management, etc.

4. Preparatory/Anticipatory

A growing number of organizations have become mature enough to prepare for real-time events in advance. By having business goals, strategies, teams, approvals, and content at the ready ahead of time, these businesses position themselves to make the most out of such opportunities. This “ducks in a row” approach is deployed by advertisers, sponsors, and consumer brands in advance of major events.

Examples: Oreo’s fully staffed Super Bowl “war room”; HBO preparing content for the Emmys that addressed all categories for which their programming was nominated so appropriate posts could be made for each win or lose scenario; Starbucks preparing assets for a warming beverage that’s deployed locally when snow falls, etc.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

Why Content Matters

Ten years ago, the extra magic ingredient was search. For the past five years or so, social media has been the de rigeur term to describe product and services offerings. Suddenly, all that’s changing again. It’s not cutting edge digital unless it’s connected to the word “content.”

This is both good news and bad news for those of us who have been preaching the content gospel for years (even before — and during — the whole search thing). Suddenly (suddenly?), content matters. It’s taking center stage. It’s noticed, acknowledged, and important. That’s the good part.

What’s the bad? With attention and a bit of notoriety comes backlash. It’s inevitable. It’s human nature. It happens with celebrities, health fads, diets, fashion, and whatever is cutting edge in digital marketing and technology.

Even a recent New York Times op-ed decried the term:

“The first time I ever heard the word ‘content’ used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, ‘content providers’ — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called ‘art’ — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.”

Hate the word if you want to, but it’s still easier to say “content” than to say “writing and music and film and photography and illustration,” not to mention “video and charts and audio and other media.”

Rachel Lovinger at Razorfish blogged a very apt response:

“Hating on the word ‘content’ is like a chef saying ‘I don’t make food. Food is what people get at McDonald’s.’ Well, there probably are chefs who feel that way, but it’s based on a fallacy. At the same time, I would never, ever refer to my favorite chef as a ‘food maker.’ The word ‘content’ isn’t perfect, but I don’t want to see it vilified. We need words to be able to talk about these principles and practices.”

Honestly, I don’t care if you call it content or not (let me know if you come up with something better). But what matters is…why it matters. Here is why content matters:

Content is the atomic particle of all digital marketing. Everything. There’s no owned media without content. There’s no social media without content. And there’s no paid media without content. And there’s certainly no media-media, as in actual digital publications, without content. Pushing back even earlier, when you search, you’re searching for content. Even email marketing, once the darling of the digital arsenal, now relegated to wallpaper status (but still critically important), is a container for…you guessed it: content.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published.

The Symbiosis of Twitter and TV

5949154732_97b0db6221Can you imagine Twitter without TV? Or TV without Twitter? In an era of media and channel convergence, nothing seems to have converged more quickly, or inextricably, than these two channels. A mutual dependency has arisen almost out of nowhere — one that benefits viewers, broadcasters, brands, and advertisers. Consider some of the ways that Twitter is changing television viewing habits and bringing old media into the future.

Real-time viewing

Just when the DVR was threatening to time-shift everyone away from their sets for good, postponing all but the most must-see of TV (i.e., major sport events and award shows), Twitter made television real-time again by plunking the water cooler down onto the sofa cushions. Sure, there’s Facebook and a host of social TV apps. But arguably it’s Twitter, and viewers armed with a battery of laptops, smartphones, and tablets, that has truly relegated the TV set to the status of “second screen.” This has time-shifted viewing as closely back to real-time as it’s ever going to get, as viewers discuss shows with friends, family, hosts, presenters, and the world at large. No DVRs? Advertisers (and broadcasters) don’t hate this.

Lean back/lean forward: Which is which?

Eons ago, when I worked in television (we’re talking mid-’90s), the difference between TV and online was described as lean back vs. lean forward. Consumers were in one mode or the other (i.e., passively viewing on the sofa or actively typing at a desk). The distinction is all but laughable now. Twitter has contributed immensely to an active, engaged, participatory television audience. Advertisers don’t hate this.

Higher ratings

Live chats on Twitter with talent from the show “Bad Girls Club” increased tune-in for the show on Oxygen by 92 percent. On the West Coast, where the chats were not initially available (presumably for time zone reasons) tune-in was up only 14 percent. This is only one of dozens of anecdotes of increased activity, engagement, and boosted ratings — thanks to the immediacy and buzz generated not only by Twitter, but by pulling other forms of social marketing into the mix, such as images and videos. Again, it’s good for everyone in the ecosystem: viewers, Twitter, the broadcaster, and advertiser.

Greater advertiser reach/targeting at little incremental cost

Compared to the cost of a TV buy, advertising on Twitter is a relative bargain. Arguably, Twitter’s acquisition of Bluefin earlier this year can help those advertisers even better target audience segments than broadcast can, at lower cost for better messaging resonance. Another win-win.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published. 

Image credit: arcticpenguin