Content marketing is nothing new. For as long as business existed, there have been businesses funding content with the sole purpose of selling their wares. Red Bull and other energy drink companies are known for holding “extreme” sports events, and professional sports themselves may as well just be as blatant as Baseketball about sponsorships. Even John Deere has published a farming magazine that predates most media outlets you’re reading these days.
Social media is filled with false reports and fake news, and a Trump presidency only accentuates the misinformation we’re about to experience.
I’ve worked with SEO and content marketing companies for several years now in different capacities. I also hire myself out to blogs as a subject matter expert in business, technology, canabis, and more. Hell, if you’ve been paying attention to my blog the past few months, you’ll see tons of technology I was sent by marketing and PR teams looking to build their media footprint with bloggers, influencers, and online personalities.
As a blogger, content marketing and affiliate advertising are part of my revenue streams. If you buy an item from my review, I get a commission, and I often get to keep the products I’m sent to review. As a consumer, I assume most news is content marketing because I’ve ghostwritten entirely too many articles to believe otherwise.
Here’s what you need to know about content marketing to keep yourself safe when reading online reviews, articles, and more.
What Is Content Marketing
Simply put, content marketing is raising brand awareness in any way other than traditional marketing. So instead of a popup ad, radio spot, TV commercial, etc., you’re creating the website, song, show, etc.
Chipotle’s Farmed and Dangerous webisodes are a great example of content marketing done right.
If you google the term “Content Marketing,” you’ll see experts in the field discussing the topic on websites like SEOMoz, Huffington Post, Forbes, Hubspot, etc. HuffPost and Forbes are of particular interest because they represent the type of content marketing that happens in journalism and media outlets.
Digital marketing experts use guest blog posts on these established platforms to build backlinks that raise their search engine visibility, thus feeding into the cycle. There’s also the media review units I mentioned earlier that are sent out to people like me to create content and build a buzz:
Events like CES and E3 are filled with press conferences where media outlets from around the world rush to publish news first and getting early access to technology is a privilege typically reserved for the biggest platforms.
I’m able to get my hands on this stuff because I have publishing access to HuffPost, which notoriously built its online throne on the back of exploited freelancers creating free content in exchange for the honor of being published on their platform.
Links on HuffPost are valuable, so I make sure to use it to the full advantage of my website. The more reviews I publish, the more revenue I generate, regardless of how I review each individual product.
Not everyone maintains journalistic integrity in reviews, however, which is why you’ll notice reviewers have to mention they were sent a free unit so you know they may be biased, and biased they often are, which is why it’s often difficult to distinguish content from content marketing.
How to Tell Content from Content Marketing
Lil Wayne is one of my favorite musical artists of all time, and he’s very self-promotional. In fact, hip-hop artists in general tend to mention their names and brand themselves in song more than musicians in any other genre.
Yet we wouldn’t consider Lil Wayne to be a content marketer. We consider him to be a content creator just like I am.
But that’s a naive way of looking at things. I have a bias, and so does Weezy. In fact all content you hear is ultimately content marketing. People don’t reach that level without the involvement of corporate interests.
Tech N9ne is not only the most successful indie hip-hop artist, but the most successful independent musician in history, and even he is self promotional.
All content is content marketing, and you just need to decide which stories to get on board with and which to ignore.
The media and marketing have always had a close relationship, and it’s only getting harder to tell the difference as the Internet and mobile technology disrupt the game.
Content marketing isn’t a new concept – it’s something that’s been happening as long as media and business existed. Even the bible is a form of content marketing.
It’s up to you as the consumer to be mindful and perform due diligence to ensure you’re getting the right information and that it’s being fact checked and sourced appropriately. Even major outlets like the Associated Press and NPR get things wrong occasionally, but it’s not for lack of trying.
Donald Trump isn’t wrong about obvious media bias, but he’s also contributing to it, so take everything you hear with a grain of salt and question it all.
Everyone has an agenda. Stick to yours.