"Content marketing" has now been a thing for about a decade. Two things, actually. As the annual Content Marketing World conference approaches (I covered this several times before the speechwriters took over my life completely), it occurs to me to observe that content marketing is either essentially:
1. An honest attempt to make interesting communication. Like Arc Magazine, which my buddy Craig Coffey has published for more than three years as marketing communications director for Lincoln Electric. Basically a general interest magazine just to show customers and potential customers the soul of the brand, Arc is edited by an ace editor John Bruening, written by top writers like Jeff Herrington and shot by fine photographers who are paid real money and sent to different places to tell interesting stories to deepen a relationship with pleasantly surprised human beings.
2. Editorial pink slime, created to fill social media feeds per some monkey's marketing matrix to drive SEO—message be damned, quality be damned, readers be damned. You can't pay legitimate writers to enough to write this stuff—and apparently you can't pay desperate hacks too little. For instance, a company called WriterAccess that pays freelancers "fair rates" of between four and 10 cents per word has come up with a novel way to better match those lucky thousands of freelancers with its thousands of clients.
This is pretty exciting stuff. So exciting, that in explaining it, the company struggled to make any grammatical or syntactical sense.
StyleMetrics Matcher is a proprietary algorithm that uses several natural language analytics tools to predict the style metrics of the author, then matching that style with writers that have completed similar writing projects. The predicted profile of the author uses research from 69,000 volunteers that completed personality tests. The matching algorithm pulls from 15,000 writer profiles and 1 million completed projects.
If that depresses and demoralizes you—if it makes you wonder if any honest communication is possible in a world where shit like this is everywhere—imagine what its ubiquitous product does to the millions of people who consume it. Here's one thing it does to them: It makes them realize they can dismiss everything they read as fake news and be right 95 percent of the time.
Corporate marketers sometimes wonder if their work makes any difference in the world. They should behave as if it makes all the difference.