Why we should stop using the term ‘content marketing’

Here are three reasons why this custom publisher hates the term.


It’s aggravating to knowingly use a term to describe your business that poorly defines what you do. That’s how I feel about the term “content marketing.” It’s the industry’s current buzz term used to describe the need to create content over advertising in order to engage with customers in social spaces.

Content marketing is nothing new. Prior to the explosion of social media, it was and still is called custom publishing. Most of us experienced it for years every time we picked up a Triptik, map, or tour book from AAA. Or maybe your brokerage firm sent you a magazine offering up advice on how to invest your 401K.

Another new term used to describe custom publishing is brand journalism, and it’s the way I like to describe what my firm, Spark Media Solutions, does. Simply put, companies hire us to be journalists for them. The way we create media is no different than when we’re producing media for traditional media outlets.

We are custom publishers and brand journalists.

What’s wrong with the term “content marketing”

I hate the term content marketing for the following reasons:

  • It’s insidious. The relationship says, “Here’s some content for you that you’ll find valuable. But when you’re not looking, we’re going to sell you something.”
  • There is no “marketing.” When you create content to inform and educate, you’re providing answers that may fulfill a step in the sales process, and you may be strengthening trust of your brand, but that’s true of all content. You read a book by a certain author and if you like it you’ll be compelled to purchase and read their next book. Each article in a newspaper must be of a certain quality. If it’s not, you will stop reading and purchasing the newspaper.
  • The name “content marketing” assumes a sales pitch within the content. If there was a sales pitch in the content it would be called “advertising.”

Even though I dislike the term “content marketing,” I begrudgingly use it on my business site and blog. I have no choice. If I want people to understand what it is we do, and to be visible in searches on the topic, I have to use the term everyone else uses to understand our industry.

Am I being too sensitive? Do you agree or disagree with me that “content marketing” poorly describes the industry of businesses becoming their own media networks?

David Spark is a journalist, producer, speaker and owner of the custom publishing and social media firm Spark Media Solutions. This post first appeared on Socialmediabiz.com.

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