If Content is So Valuable, Why are Newspapers Failing?

For the past five years, I’ve watched as content – the written word I love and cherish – has gotten hot.

Content’s the ice cream on top of the pie and everyone wants a piece. So it wasn’t long before brands began investing in content.

The New Content Creators

For the past few years, I watched as energy drink companies became content creators; as shampoo companies started producing content on women’s rights; and body lotion companies became advocates for self confidence and beauty.

I watched as jewellery companies invested in – not jewellery – but content about – not jewellery – but human relationships. (If you haven’t seen this Pandora video yet,watch it now and get out the tissues).

I watch as over 70% of B2B and B2C marketers say they’re creating more content than years before, according to Content Marketing Institute research, with almost 50% saying they publish new content daily or multiple times per week.

They’re investing in content more so than ever before – 60% say they will increase content marketing spending in the next year.

I watch and watch as companies compete to be the best content producers, to grab our attention with headlines and copy, not one-line ads and pop-ups, and the question keeps coming into my mind:

If content is so valuable why are newspapers – the original gatekeepers of content – failing?

It’s a Great Time to be a Content Marketer, a Bad Time to be a Journalist

It’s a bad time to be a journalist in Canada. In 2014, Postmedia Canada announced layoffs and voluntary buyouts and an over $10.0 million loss in its last quarter. The Toronto Star laid off 44 staff after announcing they were outsourcing page production and design jobs. Sun Media lost 360 staff and 11 newspapers. TC Media announced the closure of 20 community newspapers. Award-winning Toronto newspaper The Grid closed last summer. CBC announced a potential loss of 1,500 jobs by 2020.

During this time, the demand for content marketers – trained writers and strategists – has grown, to the point that 32% of B2B companies (an increase of 10% from the year prior) say it’s challenging to find skilled content marketers.

As  journalists lose jobs and content marketers have their pick of jobs, it begs the question: why?

If content is so valuable why are newspapers – the original gatekeepers of content – failing?

Why are companies so invested in content, why do they believe that content is the answer to win their consumers over, but newspapers filled with content can’t make it?

Where Newspapers are Failing

I’ve struggled with the answer and haven’t come to a conclusive one yet. But one thing I’ve realized is there’s something that differentiates between companies investing in content marketing and newspapers producing content and that’s what stands behind them.

For companies, content is not the product they’re selling but a means to an end – a means to build trust and authenticity with users and eventually sell their product. The product is not far behind and every company that invests in content does so for a reason: bottom line.

Every company that invests in content does so for a reason.

Newspapers, on the other hand, have nothing else to sell but content.

Newspapers are giving away their product by just producing their product and to be honest, they’re not doing a great job of it.

One of the key ways to achieve content marketing success is to differentiate yourself from the competition – and newspapers are way too scared or traditional to do so. So as newspapers rely more and more on wire stories and poorly edited 300-word articles, their content looks the same as every newspaper in that city and country – and you’ve just lost my interest and my dollar.

Companies invest in content to sell their product’s worth along with their unique brand story – but newspapers won’t. The budgets for long-form content that differentiates, substantiates (think of all the health stories that quote a 12-person study for example) and makes me beg for more are gone.

Companies invest in content to sell their product’s worth along with their unique brand story – but newspapers won’t.

There are days when I refresh my email wondering where my daily blog from Kevan Lee at Buffer, my favorite social media marketing company, is (answer: they only publish 4 days a week. Day 5 is sad).

I’ve never been drawn to a newspaper like that (and I’ve been reading them my whole life!).

So are newspapers destined to fail miserably, until all their words are erased in this strange dichotomy where content prevails for all but newspapers?

The Solution?

I don’t think so – but it requires taking a leaf out of the content marketing book (one of the best being Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi).

If newspapers can’t create content on par with content creating companies, then they won’t last another generation. But if they can:

  1. Create content that is unique
  2. Create content that answers their readers’ problems
  3. Create content that we actually want to read

Then they stand a chance. At the end of the day, content for content’s sake isn’t valuable – and that’s why companies invest in content for a specific business objective. 

And that’s why newspapers need to figure out how they can position themselves: what value they can bring to the table. If they can do so, then the best chance for newspapers to succeed is now. Are they ready to rewrite their future?

think. research. write.

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