The Future of Journalism: Writing Ad Copy

Just don't call it advertising, say 'content marketers'

What's the secret to creating popular content that promotes your brand? Don't think of it as advertising.

That was the advice offered today at an Advertising Week panel about content marketing—where companies create blog posts, video, and other material for the Web that indirectly promotes a brand. Several panelists repeated the same message: "Think journalism," not advertising or even standard "advertorial" content.

Yaron Galai, CEO of content recommendation startup Outbrain, recalled a campaign that he ran with a hotel chain. At first, the chain promoted a blog post about its iPad app, but when that failed to pique anyone's interest, it refocused on a blog post listing the top hotel apps—the advertiser was on the list, but not at the top. More importantly, it was an article that people actually wanted to read, and it resulted in more downloads for the hotel.

Galai offered a litmus test for whether potential content will succeed: "Is it good enough that we could sell an ad against that content?"

For the journalists in the room, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, argued that they may find their future working for brands, rather than a publication like The Wall Street Journal. "Those are the people hiring in journalism today," he said.

One of the format's challenges, the panelists acknowledged, is that its success can be difficult to measure. Jermaine Peguese, director of Web content strategy at the University of Phoenix, said he thinks of content marketing as a way to "soften people who are higher up in the funnel," who may turn into students later on. So if you're talking about things like sales conversion rates, Peguese said, "you're having the wrong conversation."