“Content is king” once again, at least when it comes to marketing services (original content for many dedicated publishing brands has largely given way to more cost-effective strategies of aggregation and curation).
“What’s interesting is [clients] want our expertise as content producers, not our audience,” says Dave Newcorn, vice president of digital and custom media at Summit Media, which earlier this year launched its own dedicated custom media group.
But if marketing services is where the investment is going, does that necessarily mean there is an opportunity for “traditional” editors, many of which have endured stagnant salaries (if not actual salary cuts) and lay-offs in recent years, to get a piece of the pie?
Maybe not, according to some experts. “Somebody who’s been editing a magazine for 20 years can’t do it,” says the head of marketing services at a major b-to-b publisher. “The mindset is different.”
Smart publishers draw a firm line between the authors of content marketing and authors of dedicated market-focused editorial. And many are simply applying the same bottom dollar approach they’ve given to freelance to marketing services.
However, there may be an opportunity for editors to transition into a new type of “content marketing specialist. Jonah Bloom, the former editor of Advertising Age, recently became executive director of content strategy with Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners (KBS&P).
Granted, as editor of Ad Age, Bloom came to his new position with an insider’s understanding of agency life. But he also says that the skill sets for traditional editors and content marketing specialists really aren’t that different. As he previously told Ad Age, he, “started to see that all the skills required to be an editor today—the ability to synthesize, filter, make sense of data, quickly create multi-platform content that people will interact with, market that content—might be useful to brands.”
FOLIO: Jonah, please discuss the major differences between your role now and your previous roles as a more traditional editor.
Bloom: I think the number one difference is that as an editor you’re trying to engage and serve the same audience day in, day out. As a content guy at an agency you’re looking to engage and serve a whole variety of audiences depending on the client’s market and potential market. The good news is that this keeps you on your toes, but it’s constant research into exactly what the brand stands for and what their potential audience needs and responds to.
FOLIO: On the sales side, publishers talk about how the lead times are so much longer on the sales side for marketing services. What’s the biggest difference in creating content on the marketing side?
Bloom: Publishing typically moves faster than marketing in terms of content production, partly because the processes and protocols are established and then repeated at whatever frequency is required—it’s a little more like customized manufacturing in some aspects, whereas some other marketing is more like a service business. In marketing, you’re often creating new processes and protocols for each content platform or program and you’re dealing with many more stakeholders.
FOLIO: What are the different skill sets that are required for an editorial role in marketing services or content marketing?
Bloom: I don’t think the skill sets are that different. To be either an editor or a content strategist you need to understand your audience and what content or utility they want or need so much that they’ll give up their time to engage with it; you need to understand all the machinations in planning for and making that content; and you need to understand the best ways of delivering that in terms of media and technology. You probably also have a decent sense of design, because good content is frequently sunk by bad user experience.
What’s most different is the organization or culture in which you’re going to operate. While editorial may still have too many tiers of management in places, processes and hierarchies are still typically more linear and flatter than big brand marketing processes. Editorial operations are typically full of people who are focused on current affairs (as defined by the media) and their editorial competitors. Whereas marketing agencies are more interested in culture (as defined by customers and ad shops) and brands. It’s certainly worth experiencing the difference before you make the transition.