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Understanding the importance of content in marketing

Via Times of Malta : The problem with the term ‘content marketing’ is it conveys the idea that creating ‘content’ is a virtue in its own right. That somehow, ‘content marketing’ is a strategy that a business chooses to adopt as part of its approach to marketing.

It seems that every marketer you meet these days is happy to espouse the virtues of ‘content marketing’. From videos to podcasts, articles to white papers and GIFs to memes, producing material seems to be accepted as an absolute necessity within any marketing department. In fact, there seems to be an incredible amount of content enunciating the idea of why content is so important.

However, using content in marketing is not some meritorious act that provides a marketing department with a seal of excellence. Rather, the use of content is an outcome.

The big revolution in communications today is that for the first time in history everyone has a channel. Traditionally, most of the information we consumed was produced by publishers and broadcasters. From TV to radio and newspapers to trade magazines, the majority of material we absorbed came from media companies with the means of distributing this information.

The rise of the web, social media and digital technology has meant that this is no longer the case. Media companies, of course, still produce material that we watch and read. However, today, companies and individuals also own channels that garner our attention.

From company websites and LinkedIn posts to individual bloggers and Facebook pages, every business and individual has become a media entity with the ability to distribute information to the wider world.

People, when searching for a new product or service today, have two major sources of information. One is to ask their networks of family, friends and colleagues etc., the other is to go online and undertake a search. In marketing, companies always had to be where their customers were. Today, this is online.

Therefore, every business has now become a media company. This is because, today, every enterprise has its own publishing and broadcast mediums. From a website to a blog, Facebook page to an Instagram account, whichever platforms an organisation deems appropriate for its particular prospects, all of these are channels. A traditional TV network is simply a set of cables with a licence to broadcast. What makes it good, or otherwise, is the content it puts on the channel.

Similarly, a website, Facebook page and You Tube channel etc, is all just dead space on the web. What makes these entities compelling or not, is the content that goes on them. Consequently, content is not some major marketing strategy that a company chooses to adopt. It is an outcome of existing in an age where businesses today own channels.

This has severe consequences for marketing. Simply put, marketing used to be the art of interrupting someone else’s audience. In other words, TV and radio stations, newspapers and trade magazines etc., would attract audiences through the content they commissioned and created. Companies would then pay to interrupt these audiences with their own commercial messages.

However, online, businesses own the channels in their own right. The problem is that a website, Facebook page, You Tube channel etc., has no instant viewers. Companies, therefore, have to attract an audience and then retain their attention. This is a new discipline for marketers and not one they were utilising in a previous era.

Just as media businesses attract audiences with the content they produce, all companies today must do the same. This is not, however, because content marketing is a noble pursuit to which marketing departments should aspire to become involved. Rather, it is an outcome.

The fact is that today, every business possesses its own media channels and by default, therefore, has become a media business. The currency of any media channel is content and that is why content now matters for all organisations.

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