Should you be betting on out-sourced content?

out-sourced content
By Eric Wittlake, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Media companies like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have built valuable audiences on the back of the content they publish. In contrast, and despite claims that every company is now a media company, most marketers have not been able to do the same thing.

It is clear today’s best publishers are far better than the vast majority of marketers at creating the kind of content that makes people want to come back.

So what if you turned your content creation over to an out-sourced content company whose business was built on creating content? We aren’t talking about some content mill charging less than your weekly lunch budget for an article. These are the same media companies that have been successfully building audiences on the strength of their content for years. Today, many of them are proposing to do the same for you.

1. Will it improve your content?

Media companies should be able to create more engaging content, and sometimes they do. But sadly, it often doesn’t work out that way.

In most media companies, this content is actually created by a custom publishing group with the objective of building a profitable marketing services business, not a publishing business. In other words, you are working with writers and editors that aren’t involved in editorial content at all!

Look at the content WSJ is creating for Brocade. Does it meet the standard you expect from WSJ? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Big Data: Fantastic, and Flawed (sponsored by Brocade)
How Consumers Can Use Big Data (WSJ editorial)

2. Will out-sourced content support your objectives?

A few publishers are superb at creating engaging and sharable content for marketers, but that isn’t enough to accomplish your goals.

  • Does the content develop an audience that will come back to you for more content?
  • Does it increase awareness of your brand?
  • Does it educate your target audience about the market or create demand for your offering?

Buzzfeed is mastering this content. But do listicles like 10 Pick-Up Lines Only A Villain Could Use (sponsored by Jaguar) or 16 Reasons No One Is Reading Your Emails (sponsored by Virgin Mobile) really accomplish the sponsor’s objectives, or has this content been turned into a vehicle for distribution of the sponsor’s snippet and sidebar with little regard to the benefit of sponsoring the content itself?

3. Will out-sourced content create a personal connection?

Content has the potential to start a conversation. Mark’s content here on {grow} almost always starts a conversation and his active participation keeps it going. Many of us (myself included) feel like we know Mark even though we’ve never spoken with him!

When media companies publish an article, there is usually a byline. But when a media company is hired to create content for you, whose name are you going to put on the content? Who will any connection be with?


Too often, marketers push the media companies they hire into creating the kind of content they would create themselves and lose the benefit of any expertise the media company can bring. Others are enamored by the vanity metrics and miss the opportunity for their content to support their objectives the way it could.

Ultimately the best content marketers will not be hiring media companies to create out-sourced content for them. They will be creating their own quality content that builds an audience, supports their objectives and creates personal connections.

SAP increasingly does this well. Jonathan Becher, SAP’s CMO, has published 12 articles on LinkedIn. Those 12 articles have been seen more than 200,000 times, liked more than 3,700 times and have more than 700 comments. Nearly 30,000 people are now following Jonathan on LinkedIn.

That leaves media companies working with marketers that haven’t been able to hire the right people or develop the right culture to become effective content marketers and media companies themselves.

If you are still relying on media companies to create much of your content a year from now, stop and consider what that says about your company.

Eric WittlakeEric Wittlake spends his days working with B2B marketers and shares his marketing views on his personal blog, B2B Digital Marketing. You can find him on Twitter (@wittlake) when he isn’t spending time with his three young boys.

Photo Credit: BePak via Flickr cc

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