Usually, when I’m asked about the difference between content marketing vs journalism, it’s phrased as a question: “Is journalism the same as content marketing?”
The short answer is no.
Journalism is a skill set you use within the content marketing process. Journalism is just one tool in the toolkit of content marketers.
If you stop your content marketing efforts at journalism, you’ll have a couple of real problems. Firstly, if you’re not creating content for yourself and your own ends, you’re doing it for someone else. Competitors, other writers, and anyone else can take your ideas and make money from them. Secondly, the time you spend focusing on it is time you’re not spending on your business.
Journalism is a machine for making audiences
Journalism in its pure form serves to investigate and uncover and deliver content for an audience. It is about creating content for the contents’ sake. It’s a form of entertainment as much as a source of information.
It does have a marketing function within a publishing or broadcasting business—it’s there to build the product. Most of us assume the product is a newspaper or a TV show. But it’s not. The product is the audience.
Have you heard the saying, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”? That’s how media has become such a big business over the last century—by building audiences (with journalism) and finding customers who want to talk to them (advertisers).
With content marketing, you’re the customer
Content marketers realized that this business model could work well for any business. In fact, it works better for many non-media businesses. If you can build your own audience with all the tools a publisher or broadcaster used, you could save yourself the cost of finding them.
We realized this at a time that social media, and YouTube and Google all came into existence. Suddenly, all the tools that a media company would use to build an audience were available for free, or at very little cost.
With content marketing, you are both the production machine and the customer.
In content marketing vs journalism, who wins?
A content marketer can be a journalist but a journalist cannot be a content marketer. Why? While a good journalist can write with creative flair and witty turn of phrase and entice an audience with a good grab, but few have the background market knowledge and skills needed to successfully pull-off a content campaign.
Content marketing is about business. By delivering specific content, you might be trying to explain the benefits of a particular service or recruit a member (or both). Yes, you want to entertain your reader but you also want to them to respond to you.
Step into your audience’s lives
Content marketing is about stepping into the lives of your audience. In order to know how to distribute content, you need to understand how that piece of content fits into a buyer journey, how it will help solve their problems or answer their burning questions.
This is a unique skill set. One which is marked by a clear sense of responsibility: it’s important that your content remains honest. Always deliver what you promise to deliver. You’re not trying to trick people or deceive them to buy something that they don’t necessarily want.
Content marketing isn’t journalism. It’s bigger and better than that.