Content marketing: just a hangover – or does it even really exist?

With so many interested parties involved in the conversation over content marketing, it’s understandable how criticisms – and occasional notes about its limitations – can sometimes get swept under the carpet.

So it’s refreshing to see, in recent days, two well-meaning – if not entirely earth-shattering – counter punches.

Publishing problems


Many of the businesses that changed working practises to bring in content publishing operations – says the first of those arguments – met with a new set of problems.

In short, they recalibrated by adding multimedia facilities – and capabilities – of which many traditional news providers would be envious, but in doing so they ran slap-bang into many of the issues news organisations have been wrestling with as they continue to adapt to digital publishing.

“Having drunk deeply from the content marketing well, they [brand publishers] are now waking up to a hangover,” wrote Andrew Davies, founder of Idio, on the Economist’s marketing blog Lean Back.

In his article, Davies argues how associated issues that come with a move into content marketing – building scale, amplification, categorisation, personalisation, and knowing what to do next – can be solved through the implementation of software.

In fact, he argues that all these issues can be solved with technology.

“As content marketing increases,” he writes, “so will businesses’ need to solve the various problems that aren’t always articulated by content marketing’s most enthusiastic proponents.

“Thankfully, whatever the problem, there is a technology out there that can help solve it.”

Really? Certainly, technology is a great enabler; but rarely have I found it to be the answer to all inherent problems associated with publishing.

To name just a handful: what about the legal implications of making stories and opinions public? What about engagement with the audience? Many of that number won’t be happy – and they won’t be shy about telling you that. Then what about managing expectations internally and externally? And having solved all those problems, how do you follow and assess the quality of your rival’s output? How do you respond to events that aren’t in your plan? Then, and this is perhaps the biggest of these few points, what happens when none of it works? What do you do then?

Content marketing is dead

In his criticisms of content marketing, Steve Liversedge takes an entirely different approach. In a long article for, he argues that content marketing does not exist.

Amongst the excitement, he says, the “reality is that we are simply hyping up the repackaging of a marketing process that has been practiced for decades, and, sooner or later, content marketing will fade away.”

“Let’s blow the lid off content marketing and see it for what it really is: not marketing, but a process within marketing that supports many aspects of marketing, based on quality content generation and distribution. We market a brand, a company, a product, a person, an event – not something as abstract as content.”

This is a bit of a non-argument. It’s a moot point whether or not content marketing is a wholly new thing or a function within a function. Steve’s point about the predominance of paid advertising in search to draw an audience to content, is much stronger, however. He says: “the concept of content marketing cannot exist without promotion and advertising – the very things content marketing seeks to replace” – and that’s hard to argue against.

The other problem for Steve is that in making his case so forcefully, he gave a great many people ammunition for a substantial counter-argument: Steve, they say, surely your blog – your increasingly popular blog – against content marketing is, itself, great content marketing?

True, but I like to think that when writing his article Steve had a picture in his mind of all the attention it would bring – and that he was grinning from ear to ear, knowing wholly what he was doing.

Anticipation of the audience, penning something that will, in equal measure, engage, infuriate, and intrigue – now, that is great content marketing.