The worlds of media, publishing and communications have changed immeasurably in just a few short years. And the consumers of media have changed too with mobile devices altering the way we consume content and also affecting how we create that content. The appointment of Arjun Basu as Content Director, providing leadership and direction across all our publishing and media interests is a strategic step for us as leaders in the custom content market. I’ve asked him a few questions about his new role and about the brave new world of Content Marketing.
What exactly does a Content Director do?
I used to get that question a lot when I was Editorial Director, too. Let’s step back a bit and examine the word “content.” It’s both misunderstood and overused and that’s a dangerous combination. But it’s also important. Because I believe we live in a world where almost everything is content. Everything – from shoes to television – throws content at us and it is this content that make up the stories of our lives. That sounds grandiose, I know, but think about it. Nike, for example. Nike is a content provider. Sure, they were providing content when they printed “Just Do It” on t-shirts but now their shoes are content too. In fact, one could argue that Nike running shoes are social media hubs. A few years ago that sentence wouldn’t have even made any sense at all and now it’s indisputable. Not only can the shoes sync to an app and measure the development and rhythm of your jogging regime, your shoes can broadcast this to the world. So Nike shoes are content. At Spafax for years we’ve said that airlines are content providers. Flights are immersive media experiences only now we’re understanding this fact. And at Spafax we can harness varied media to create an unbroken narrative of content to a consumer. I think we’re seeing this with hotels, as well. And if one can let their imagination go, this is true of almost anything: any place where people congregate, whether it be virtually, socially or for purely commercial reasons, can be and are content hubs. What Spafax does is content marketing, and the Content Director’s role is to ensure that brands are leveraging their own narratives in compelling ways to successfully engage with the population. Did I answer the question?
What exactly is Content Marketing and how is that different from Custom Publishing?
Custom Publishing was kind of a less sophisticated form of Content Marketing. Even the term “Custom Publishing” refers to a time when an overall media solution wasn’t really something anyone could wrap their heads around. And let’s face it, “publishing” is still perceived as being a print word exclusively. Until recently, media was created in silos. So you had your web team doing one thing, your print team doing something else and so on. We still see that now in some companies, where communications, marketing and branding are housed in different departments and each department is competing for budget. And then within these departments, someone is responsible for print and an entire infrastructure has grown around a “web” team that was originally constructed as a kind of IT support staff – but now they control web communications. All this to say that Custom Publishing was a kind of “either/or” affair with little integration between print and web (or, later, mobile and apps). Content Marketing sees a bigger picture and gets to the heart of what “custom media” has always been – a more sophisticated, more immersive, branding and marketing tool.
What change will your customers see?
I’d like to think our customers have already started seeing changes from Spafax. A few years back, we created Spafax Interactive to develop and curate our digital properties for our customers; the majority of our clients now have combined print/digital communications strategies (and let’s not forget they all started with a print only strategy). We’ve been preaching this for a while now. If there’s a change, our customers, both current and future, will see us really talking about a broader idea, the story of what they want to say distilled as content – we’ll worry about the format later. The format will fit the content marketing strategy. In the past, in many ways, the strategy fit the format. That’s been reversed.