Publishers maximize content marketing awareness metrics at executive roundtable

"Blank smart phone isolated on white", courtesy of Shutterstock.

At Poynter, Carlie Kollath Wells reports on top newspaper publishers' ability to remain profitable thanks to paywalls--and their plans to stay that way with subscription hikes and marketing.

The Dallas Morning News in May 2009 raised prices 40 percent. “We lost about 12 percent of our subscribers,” Moroney said. But, it was a good move, he said, and the paper is in the process of raising subscription rates again. “It raised a lot of money for us and it continues to raise a lot of money for us,” Moroney said. “We’re [at] about 32-33 percent of our total revenue coming from subscribers.”

All good news, right? But there's this weird abstract quality to it all. What it is we're talking about again? Let's look again at the article...

Four top publishers ... content ... content marketing ... content to populate company newsletters ... content ... content war ... content company ... content ... digital content ... local content ... unique content ...

Sure, hating that word is as old as the hills. It suggests the speakers have no interest in what "content" consists of, and makes it easy to insinuate pathological underpinnings for their failures. But it's also the message, and the message is marketing, and our reaction to it signifies only that we aren't the target market. Depending on the audience, top publishers have different stories to tell about what journalism is, and it's not always a grotesque one.

1. Journalism is public speech, the lifeblood of democracy and a healthy political arena.
2. Journalism is intellectual property, worthy of severe punishments for stealing.
3. Journalism is content, a fungible commodity.

The reason "content" is so icky isn't really because it devalues the arts. It's because it's a pitch whose appeal relies on the superficiality and ignorance of the people doing the buying. You can "just pick 2" here and still look like you're up to something fishy.

So who, exactly, wants be the buyer in these "content opportunities"? Their "clients", of course! But not the competing businesses eating their lunch, and surely not the readers whose continued consumption of it will always mark their bottom line.