Welcome to the inaugural post of The Digital Contrarian, a place where I put all of my many years of digital experience to use in questioning the status quo of the space many of us spend so much time in.  I’ve tried my hand at blogging before, but I’m going to be more committed this time.  Really.
Today I want to address the subject of Content Marketing, where digital marketers (um, like me) use “content”—once known as “writing,” “articles,” “stories,” “information” and the like—to attract traffic and audiences through search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media, etc.

Content is King
like Tommen Baratheon is.

I find it a little funny how so much of this digital marketing and publishing world comes full circle, because I have enough grey hair to remember the earliest days of the commercial Internet, and even the CD-ROM world before then, when everyone proclaimed “Content is King!”  And then my employer at the time, Encyclopaedia Britannica, slowly became a footnote in the digital world, and most newspapers started going out of business.  So I guess that the King had as much power as Tommen Baratheon, the current boy king on Game of Thrones.

Currently blogging, social media, and other forms of content marketing have a greater impact on search engine rankings, thanks to changes in recent years in Google’s algorithms.  Many of these changes were designed to reward original content and to punish aggregators of other people’s content, while also rewarding sites with strong social media followings: Facebook likes and comments, tweets and followers, etc.
The trouble is: so much of this stuff is just plain crap.
Ron Obvious

Ron Obvious

I belong to several digital marketing groups on LinkedIn, which has become an absolute wasteland of “content marketing” postings where people who have no business writing headlines trip over themselves in their race to the bottom of the shame pit in selling their companies’ services.  It’s so blatant and obvious, it reminds of me of…Ron Obvious, a Monty Python character who is forced by his manager Luigi to take part in a bunch of mindless and harmful publicity stunts, like tunneling to Java.

Do these people have no shame?
There’s one person on one of my LinkedIn digital marketing groups—key word here is “digital”—who has informed me over the past several months that I can: a) use inflatable balloons at my promotional event; b) improve my business image with business cards; and c) enhance my car’s look with bumper stickers.  My first question is: are you for real?  Answer: probably not, because (at the risk of sounding sexist) her picture looks like a 20-year-old supermodel, and I’m ashamed to say I know more than one person who has used that strategy before.  My second question is: when will this madness stop filling my inbox and networking sites?
Miniority Report

Coming Soon: Minority Report Advertising

There are several companies that are using technology to create actual writing: Automated Insights, Narrative Science, etc.  Their “robots” write capsule summaries of sports events, stock reports, and other online content.  Someday I hope this technology could be put to use in a way that rewards genuine content—human or robotic—that is creative and devoid of the obvious, while perhaps punishing the barrage of sales messages that clog up our lives.

I’m under no delusion that a Minority Report world of advertising isn’t coming to us soon, where storefronts call out to us based on our interests as we pass them by, but I kind of wish Google would tweak its algorithms to dial it down a bit.

So come on, Google.  Filter this stuff out.  Do something to make SEO harder again.  It’s probably good for your AdWords revenue.