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Why top journalists are good news for content marketing

Call us content grandees or media gurus if you must….

We’ve certainly been around the block in journalism and post-modern communications. Perhaps we’re publishing sages – you can be the judge of that.

We change-manage media groups, we launch-edit and staff sites, we develop (and sometimes speak on!) media platforms, we raise funding for original start-ups, we generate on-line content and develop readerships, we sometimes broker media deals and we effect editorial regime changes where they’re needed.

Between us, we have more than 70 years’ worth of running media operations and have spent the last few years taking journalism and publishing into the digital era. It can be a painful process – just look at the state of some of our great national newspapers at the start of this century. But, to paraphrase Clay Shirky, the world doesn’t need newspapers – what it needs is more journalism.

That’s a revolutionary opportunity for our times. But in a new world obsessed with digital content and on-line traffic it can be hard to see the way forward. We’re your native guides, if you like – it’s dangerous to generalise in this alien territory, but for starters here are three golden rules:

Content isn’t about marketingOr not principally so. The problem here is that the newish Content Marketing industry is run by marketers, not by people who know about content (or editorial as we used to call it). Your priority isn’t your brand, it’s your reader – and you have to give readers what they want to read, not what you want them to read. Or you won’t retain them, simple as that.

Content is complex With the explosion of social media, it’s often said that now everyone is a journalist. No they’re not. It might be fairer to say that anyone can be a media proprietor. But no one will pay any attention if your content is dull, pointless or simply propaganda. You need to engage, to let other voices in, to tell readers what they don’t already know – in short, to entertain. That hasn’t changed.

Traffic needs calming – We’ve been over-excited by hits and clicks and uniques. That game is over. Analytics need to be telling you who your readers are, not how many there are. To reach the right readers you need to present them with the right content (nothing has changed there either). And here’s the thing: It’s what advertisers are craving, so it’s driving by the commercial imperative too.

George Pitcher

George Pitcher

George Pitcher is a writer and talker, an academic specialising in the purposes of journalism and an Anglican priest. You can read his LSE blog here.

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