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Advertisers have spent the last few years toiling away in the social media fields, and now have long lists of followers on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to show for their efforts.

New problem: Finding something to say to those followers.

If that doesn’t sound like a problem to you, then maybe you’re like me and spend way too much time blurting stuff out. But apparently this a puzzler that stumps lots of brands, because we’ve seen a crop of companies designed to solve the problem show up in the last couple years.

Now NewsCred, one of the first “content marketing” startups, has raised a $25 million funding round led by InterWest partners. This follows a $15 million round the company announced last March and brings the company’s total funding to $45 million since 2008.

For the record, I asked CEO Shafqat Islam if some of this money came via secondary sales, and whether founders/early employees/early investors took some money off the table, and he declined to answer. So you can go ahead and assume that this is so. But Islam said a lot of the money will go toward expanding his sales team, both in New York and London.

And he also said he thinks he’ll use some of it to consolidate some of the other players in the content marketing industry. Those folks are also raising money, by the way: Earlier this month Contently announced it had raised $9 million so it could fight in the “content arms race“.

But wait a minute. What is content marketing again, and why is it a thing people are fighting over?

Easy version: Content marketing supposedly fills a new need advertisers have to say … something to their constituency, by helping those companies source and choose … content.

This stuff often comes from traditional publishers, who are happy to make extra money be reselling stuff they’ve already published. And companies like NewsCred are now paying writers and other content-makers to make stuff for them from scratch; NewsCred’s payments start at $500 a blog post.

You can see examples of the work NewsCred does on sites like the ones it helps stock with content for Pepsi and Sprint.

At a minimum, all of this effort seems like a not-bad thing for publishers, writers, photographers, etc., who may be watching the traditional market for their stuff contract. If NewsCred, or Contently, or Percolate, or Starcom MediaVest, etc. can help them find more buyers for their stuff, then I’m all for that.

I do wonder if this is a market that grows beyond a certain size, though. Especially if marketers decide that they ought to spend most of their time and money pushing their messages the way they always have, via traditional ad platforms.



2 comments
Md
Md

Nice column, Peter. You highlight some interesting issues that are a much broader conversation. Also, ultimately who consumes all of this content? Maybe a better question is, "Does anyone?" Greater clarity will probably come with time and better analytics. Either way, nice profile of NewsCred. Sound like a decent new entrant.

Marshall Kirkpatrick
Marshall Kirkpatrick

Congrats to NewsCred, Interwest and crew.  It will be exciting to see what they do next. 


Peter, we're in that market too (both content marketing and social sales) and as someone who used to sit closer to wearing your shoes (blogging) I would suggest that you might be able to relate to companies seeking to create content more than you might think.  It's hard!  

It's even harder for companies because it's new for them, and because they have complicating commercial interests.  And because they are often terribly uninteresting.  

People say that all brands are becoming publishers and all sales people are becoming mini-marketing departments.  Is it a fad?  I don't think so.  The line between audience and publisher is gone and the audience is no longer captive.  I don't expect those to change.


But if content marketing technologies can help those companies be more interesting to an audience that can easily pick up and leave at any time, that would mean a new world of commercial communication, would it not?

For those unfamiliar with the world of content marketing, its thought leaders are people like Ann Handley, Joe Pullizi (founder of Content Marketing World), Joe Chernov (VP of Content at Hubspot, and incidentally a Little Bird advisor), Jay Baer (leading marketing consultant and a Little Bird investor).  Those are some of the folks the rest of the content marketing world listens most closely to.  Fwiw, most of those folks know about you, Peter.

Ok, back to the content marketing machine factory floor I go.  See you there, NewsCred team!  

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