Is content marketing maturing?

Is content marketing maturing?
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When the former publisher of Fairfax Media’s BRW Amanda Gome announced she was running a “corporate newsroom” for ANZ in February media heads turned.

Not only was Gome, the former CEO of Private Media, a high-profile hire but she issued a frank assessment of the future: “I always look two years ahead,” she told Crikey, “This is where media is going. The whole move into companies producing their own news is well advanced in America, and it’s coming here.”

Australian marketers could be forgiven with getting bored with the buzz about content marketing, but it seems like 2014 will be the year that it finally delivers on the hype.

The industry has been talking for a while now about the need for brands to become publishers, but recently things have gathered real momentum.

It only takes a quick check in Google Analytics to see that the popularity of the search term “content marketing” has grown exponentially in Australia in the last 12 months (exceeding even the popularity of the term in the US.)

The number of attendees at the Content Marketing World conference in Sydney in April was double that of the previous year, and The Australian Marketing Institute has included content marketing in their annual awards for the first time.

More importantly, we’re beginning to see organisations tackle the hard structural changes necessary to deliver really great content.

If marketing used to be about the 4Ps (Product, Place, Price, Promotion) Socialnomics author Erik Qualman claims it’s increasingly about the 4Cs (Creating, Curating, Connecting and Culture). 

Even without the catchy jargon it’s clear that there’s been a seismic shift. Consider that 76% of US marketers surveyed by Adobe at the end of last year said that marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the last 50. If that’s true you need a dramatically different structure and different skill sets in your organisation.

For some brands getting serious about content has meant the creation of new roles similar to what the Americans call “Chief Content Officers” who are part of the senior management team. Destination NSW, for example, recently advertised for a “Director – Editorial & Content” that will be an executive level position within the tourism body.

Having a senior person dedicated to content means there is someone whose job it is to help organise different departments with their own blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. They can also own the content strategy and budget, liaise with content agencies and be an evangelist for content across the company. If content really is the future of marketing, then it needs representation at the C-suite level.

Others, like ANZ and the AFL, are launching fully-fledged brand newsrooms staffed by journalists, sub-editors and videographers to tell useful, interesting stories that do not promote their own product.

As a former Fairfax editor and co-founder of one of the only agencies in Australia run by people with a publishing background, I can tell you that there is a growing realisation among marketers that good content is about quality – not advertorial or spammy SEO content.

Smart marketers realise that if they want to reach potential customers who aren’t listening to traditional advertising anymore they need to create the kind of content that any professional journalist would be happy to have their by-line on.

Early adopters of this approach include brands in the travel, insurance and financial services sectors (check out Tourism Australia’s Restaurant Australia site, Medibank’s Generation Better or ANZ’s Blue Notes) but I expect that Telcos and FMCGs won’t be far behind.

Most recently the ALP, of course, has waded in with plans to launch its own “Crikey-style” news service although it remains to be seen if this will do more than just crank out press releases to the party faithful.

Beyond the buzz the arrival of content officers and brand newsrooms might just herald the dawn of a new more mature age for content marketing in Australia. You’d be well advised to watch this space.

Lauren Quaintance is head of content Sydney for content marketing agency Storify 

For more on BlueNotes see a previous B&T opinion piece: 'BlueNotes – music to a communicator's ears'

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