In this first in a series of blogs, essays and Q&A’s with the leading experts in the content marketing and journalism fields, MSP Communications president Gary Johnson asks Joe Pulizzi, director of the Content Marketing Institute, to explain exactly what is going on in the field of content marketing and how brands can better engage consumers with effective content creation.
Gary Johnson: How do you feel about Marc Andreesen’s recent comment about the “bullshit of metrics,” saying “likes,” followers, page views and “uniques” offer little or no indication of engagement or value?
Joe Pulizzi: Those are indicators and can be helpful to content creators to determine what's working and what's not, but essentially, he's right. I believe the best metric for content is subscription. Is someone willing to do a value exchange for the content you create?
Johnson: Do you find “native ads” to be more a default than an effective exploitation and innovation in digital advertising?
Pulizzi: Native advertising has been around forever. It used to be called "advertorial." In the right context it can work well, as long as there is clear transparency that it is a purchased spot. In some ways you are right—native advertising is a way to keep the interruptive ad unit alive. But I believe it has its place. I like native advertising from a rent to own strategy, that is, using someone else's network to drive subscriber programs from the sponsoring company.
Johnson: Can you describe what responsibility content marketers have in driving and increasing online audience, capturing and identifying leads and/or selling product, versus basic content creation?
Pulizzi: Content marketing that doesn't drive or maintain some kind of behavior is not content marketing, it's just content. There are many goals for content, but just the creation of it is not one of them. Content has to have a purpose.
Johnson: Who is performing at a high level in the content marketing space? Name creators and brands.
Pulizzi: Red Bull Media House, Kraft and Coca-Cola on the consumer side. Marketo/Eloqua, Openview Venture Partners, Cisco Systems and IBM on the B2B side.
Johnson: How has content marketing changed in the past five years? Are we still just coming out of the dugout, to quote you?
Pulizzi: I'm amazed at how fast the market is moving. We are still at the beginning, but getting internal buy-in doesn't seem to be a critical issue. My biggest concern right now is the sheer lack of content marketing strategy or planning. There are a lot of brands creating lots of content without an overarching content marketing vision. This is a problem. I believe we will see a more thoughtful, strategic look at content for more mature content marketers over the next 12 months.
Johnson: How would you differentiate or delineate content created for a website, a tablet and a smartphone?
Pulizzi: Content marketers need to make sure their content can be engaged and shared, as easily as possible, in all the channels we choose to use. If not, what's the point? Responsive design is a great first step to making this happen. In the future, I think we'll be smarter about this, but I'm not sure of the ultimate solution at this point.
Johnson: What are your favorite sources of the written word, print or online?
Pulizzi: I find inspiration in Fast Company, Inc., Seth Godin and our own CMI content. For longer content, I still enjoy printed magazines and books over anything else.
Johnson: What type of content does a corporation or brand have to create to win the trust and attention of its customers?
Pulizzi: That's different for every company. There is no silver bullet. But ultimately, I feel it should be the mission of every organization to be the leading expert for the industry. This cannot be accomplished without a consistent stream of amazing content. Like it or not, we must all be media companies today.
Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?