10 ways to be part of today's content revolution: whether you're marketing toothpaste or legal services, content has become the way to go. Here's why--and how.

AuthorWinkleman, Mike

For several years, the word "content" has dominated conversations in marketing circles. Recognizing this, the Custom Publishing Council changed its name to the Custom Content Council (CCC) and launched a magazine covering the products its members were producing called, not surprisingly, Content. Not long afterwards, the CCC's British equivalent, the Association of Publishing Agencies, became the Content Marketing Association. At a growing number of brands, chief marketing officers have been retitled chief content officers, lending credence to the claims of the six-year-old Content Marketing Institute that this will soon be the title of choice among marketers.

What's fueled this revolution is a growing understanding that useful, accessible information sells a brand--whether that brand is toothpaste or a law firm--more easily and more successfully than slogans and hype. "Show" has surpassed "tell" as the operating mantra, and everyone has gotten into the act. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the recent growth of "native advertising," a form of content creation and distribution (largely electronic) that harks back to advertorials and infomercials, but in a format that is more clearly designed to appear "native" to the environment in which it is housed.

This revolution, of course, has not come without concern. Early forays into content marketing by law firms brought a sharp rebuke from several bar associations, which demanded not only clear but (to marketers) intrusive lettering that suggested that the content was little more than conventional advertising. This past December, the FTC convened a standing-room only conference to look closely at what it called the "blurred lines" exposed by native advertising, the object being to help the agency determine whether regulations were needed. In this case, content--that is, branded content--appears to have prevailed. The demand for overt labeling of free-standing content has been muted. And the FTC left the conference saying it was convinced that marketers, publishers and branded content consumers understood the opportunities that content marketing affords them and the responsibilities they have to make sure they use this evolving platform honestly, transparently and for the benefit of all parties.

Though this revolution has resulted in a surfeit of content, it has also resulted in a refinement of the form. Good content is better than ever. Discerning readers are not only learning more about...

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