Let’s Tear Down the Silos that Separate Paid Media and Content Marketing

Content Marketing

Do you know that up to 89% of content marketers do no paid amplification of their content via native advertising or social media networks? Is it because they don’t need too? Is it because they have massive organic audiences that flock to their content? Maybe they all have huge email lists they send their content to. Unlikely…

For years we’ve known that content marketers generally do a poor job at using paid media for distribution and amplification. Since 2014, they generally do the opposite of television ad executives – spending one dollar on distribution for every five dollars they spend on creative.

We also know that the amount of content being published on the Internet has exploded this decade. Mark Shaefer calls this content shock. In the labs we call this a state of content surplus. Basically, it’s when there’s more organic content on the Internet than people looking to consume it.

Just two years ago about 2.8 billion blog posts were published daily. Today, by 5:00 PM, over 3.8 billion blog posts are published. I’m not even mentioning the video numbers. The shear volume of content online is mind-blowing.

And guess what… There’re only 10 organic positions on the first page of Google. Organic social media visibility is approaching near-zero for all industries. With the publishing numbers shown above what’s the likelihood of gaining exposure organically with no paid media? Slim to none…

Last decade we were in a state of content deficits – meaning there were more people on the Internet looking for content to solve their problems than content available. Those were the good old days of publish and pray. You could literally hit publish and Google and social media would drive all the visibility needed.

That mindset is still in full-force today. Take a look at the numbers below. Look at the gap between content marketing adoption and paid content amplification. This is the greatest untapped channel for content marketers. While adoption is growing, it’s still in the doldrums of possibility.

  • In H1 2018, 473 advertisers placed programmatic native ads (RTB, DSP) for the first time each month, on average.
  • Only 11% of online advertisers are placing native ad units (RTB, DSP).
  • Content marketing adoption rates for B2B brands is 91% and 86% for B2C brands, respectively.

… But Why?

Since 2014, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why so many content marketers go exclusively organic. Both earned and paid media are the amplification channels of today and tomorrow. In our travels speaking at conferences a lot of folks come up afterwards to ask questions. Almost every time multiple marketers share their frustration of paid media silos at their companies. They complain that distribution budgets are in another department for PPC and display. They literally share that they must beg for access.

I think Neil Patel on MediaPost said it best:

“The content crowd thinks paid traffic is ‘interruption-based’ and ‘annoying’ because ‘everyone hates ads,’” said Neil Patel, CMO of Neil Patel Digital. “Meanwhile, the paid party pokes fun at the ‘small-time’ marketers toiling away at driving ‘free’ bumps of exposure.”

From brands to agencies, there’s a wall that separates paid media and content marketing for up to 89% of companies. This is beginning to change from earlier this decade, but the change is slower than what it needs to be. Native advertising on both social media and the real-time bidding networks (in-feed) is not interruption-based.

People only go to the web for two reasons – to solve a problem or to be entertained, quickly. In reality, if someone needs entertained that’s their problem, but it’s convenient to separate the two for content purposes. Businesses are in the business of solving problems. That’s what they do and why they exist. It’s what fundamentally makes them unique in the macroeconomic circle of households, banks and governments. As a result, brands need to mostly focus their content on solving problems.

However, if that content can’t be found what good is it? As marketers, we can’t rely on the organic channels alone anymore because of the massive amounts published every day. We also need to be strategic when producing content to ensure it’s successful on these amplification channels.

Google’s concept of micro-moments is a good framework for planning out content to distribute. Their study points out exactly why people go to the Internet. It’s broken down into four categories:

  1. I want to know moments
  2. I want to go moments
  3. I want to do moments
  4. I want to buy moments

You can see that only one quarter of the micro-moments are direct response. That means the majority of content created by a brand shouldn’t be salesy. Most paid media silos at brands and agencies only focus on distributing number four – I want to buy moments. Number one through three is generally publish and pray on the organic channels. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Not all paid media needs to be direct response and not all content marketing needs to be completely passive and top-funnel. That said, they can work harmoniously together very well if strategically planned. There’s a massive opportunity out there for both content marketers and paid media gurus. There will come a day when the 11% adoption rate for paid content amplification will be 50%, 60% 70%+. If you wait until then your opportunity will be far less than what it is today. Let’s break down these silos and do content marketing AND amplification at the same time on all four micro-moments.

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