Content Marketing: The Hype, the Hate and the Hope

For one thing, the name is dumb. “Content” is something you find in a pail.


by Peter Coish

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Like many, we find the puncturing of the overinflated to be one of the small pleasures of life. So we sympathize with the urge to poke holes in the hyperbole surrounding content marketing.  But we think this is one over-hyped marketing trend that’s here to stay.

Let’s all agree on a few points. For one, the name is dumb. “Content” is something you find in a pail. The term “content marketing” doesn’t exactly sing, and it certainly doesn’t call to mind the deep strategic thinking and brilliant creativity that brands are looking for. But it’s the industry label now, and love it or hate it, we need labels to describe different areas of marketing specialization. So we here at Kuration are going use it.

A more damning knock against content marketing, if it were true, is the claim that it doesn’t live up to its promise. Again, this criticism is misguided. It’s true that content marketing lacks magical powers and won’t solve all your marketing challenges. But you can’t blame the method for the ridiculous hype or the tidal wave of mediocre content. The fault lies with the cultish devotees who are unable to restrain their enthusiasm, and the content marketing practitioners who are producing crap. For now, content marketing is the new thing, but a newer new thing will come along eventually, and the hype will settle down. But content marketing will endure.

In our view, Mark Schaefer’s provocative post Content Shock: Why Content Marketing Is Not a Sustainable Strategy offers the most interesting critique of content marketing. Schaefer theorizes that content marketing is not a sustainable approach because the increasing volume of content being produced will soon overwhelm our capacity to consume it. This isn’t a new concept. The same oversupply argument has been made about, yet it’s still very much alive and kicking. Schaefer overlooks the fact that, as consumers of information, we primarily focus on specific niches that interest us. An abundance of content in the digital environment is not going to overwhelm us any more than the stacks of books overwhelm us when we visit the library.

Schaefer pairs his oversupply thesis with the observation that the rising supply of content is leading to increased cost of production. As more and better content enters the digital space, he argues that companies will have to increase spending to obtain the quality needed to cut through the clutter. Schaefer goes on to argue that, at some point, only deep-pocketed companies will be able to produce content at the level of quality needed to attract readers. For the rest, he writes, content marketing will become economically unviable.

Again, Schaefer overlooks an important piece of the puzzle. For every Red Bull near-space jump, there are Internet blockbusters like this, produced for a fraction of the cost.  And we firmly believe they aren’t going to go away.

Why? Simple. It’s about quality, not about production cost (despite what your agency might tell you). It always has been and always will be. Quality content doesn’t just get read, it gets shared – passed on with a personal recommendation in social media. The best quality content marketing will continue to rise to the top, and people will never get enough of it.

Peter Coish is the founder of KURATION.  He can be reached by email here.