I went to the Contently Summit in NYC last Wednesday, where marketers from various brands, agencies and publishers converged to hear industry leaders discussing brand publishing, metrics, ethics, audience acquisition, storytelling, and more.
Aside from MadLibs, a man on a typewriter writing poems on demand, liquor-infused ice cream, a really fun photo booth, and great conversation with amazing editors and agencies and brands, there were some panels and discussions as well. Here’s a recap:
Truth in Advertising
The first panel, Truth in Advertising, was a frank discussion about transparency and ethics in brand publishing. (I thought this was actually pretty radical to have during a content marketing summit, but Contently has always been a bit of a game changer.) Panelists included Meghan Graham, DEFY Media VP of women’s content, Eric Goeres, Time Inc. Director of Innovation, and Jeff Jarvis, the Director of Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Transparency was the overarching theme. “We all have biases. The more open we are about those things, the better off we’ll be,” Graham pointed out Jarvis, who has an impressive list of disclosures n his website, said it’s important to make sure the reader is never confused about the source of content. Goeres also echoed the sentiment: “Don’t trick ’em, don’t piss ’em off” was his advice.
We discussed Forbes BrandVoice, and whether it is transparent enough to have “what is this?” written on top of the page, with a description when people click on the link. Goeres stated that some would argue that the Forbes brand has taken a major hit, a sentiment with which I agree.
The New York Times’ Orange is the New Black infographic is listed as a paid post, with a small logo and a URL starting with “paid post,” but some argued that this wasn’t transparent enough.
There was also some discussion on making sure that paid content was highly relevant and well-written, with Graham asking if the money from a product you’d normally mock in your editorial section is worth ruining your relationship with your audience.
What I found most interesting in this panel and the discussion is people’s thought processes. It’s easy to view brand publishing and native as a black and white issue, but I appreciate the nuance involved in the discussion. These issues are part of a much larger dialogue, and publishers and journalists alike continue to grapple with them. Resources: Contently’s post on Orange is the New Black
The Numbers Game
Up next was a discussion on numbers with Buzzfeed data scientist Ky Harlin and Moat president Aniq Rahman. Since most metrics and analytic tools are designed for publishers selling ads, this conversation was to discuss metrics to measure to build relationships with customers. Harlin recommended measuring everything, but said that ‘likes’ on their own are a meaningless metric. He does look at viral lift, measuring the propensity for shareability based on the ratio between viral views and seed, or controllable, views. Rahman recommended measuring attention. One metric he looks at is scroll velocity, to determine whether content is actually read. Resources: 10 Charts That Are Changing the Way We Measure Content
Getting (and Keeping) an Audience
This was a fascinating panel with PureWow Director of Marketing Alexis Anderson, Mediaco Editorial Director Erin Scottberg, and Refinery29’s Senior Director of Marketing Irene Lee. I wrote a recap for the Content Strategist, so thought I’d just link to that! Resources: ‘Growth is Not a Hack’: 7 Strategies for Building a Loyal Audience, and Refinery29’s Intelligence blog
The Storytelling Arms Race
This panel was about content campaigns from start to finish, and including Microsoft storytelling manager Ben Tamblyn and American Express VP of Content Carrie Parker. The two have opposing brand storytelling strategies. Microsoft’s stories tell all about Microsoft, whereas Open Forum is not really about American Express. One interesting takeaway for me was when Carrie Parker mentioned that non-inspirational posts aren’t widely shared, but get traffic via search. Conversely, posts that are widely shared don’t often do well in search. There was also a lot of discussion on great stories (which are not press releases!).Both Tamblyn and Parker predicted that storytelling will include content that’s much more visual, as well as a rise in mobile. Resources: Microsoft to World: Yes, We Can Be Cool and Innovative, Too, and the Net Promoter Score