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One of the things I often hear these days is that marketing people need to “think like publishers,” as if publishers spend all day writing and editing great, fascinating stories.

 Wrong.

In the newspaper and magazine world, the publisher usually has very little to do with what stories appear on the front page (remember those?) The publisher works on the business side, spending most of his or her time selling ads, dealing with unions (remember those?), hassling over budgets and trying to squeeze out enough profit they don’t get canned.

It’s editors who determine what a publication “feels” and reads like, with their day-to-day decisions about which stories get the biggest “play,” which columnists get to squawk about which subjects, and whether they want a down-the-middle or a snarky headline on that Charley Sheen story.

What does this have to do with content marketing? Everything. If you’re trying to sell with thought leadership, as so many are today, you can’t be pandering to advertisers like a publisher. You need to serve the reader like an editor, focusing on what they need to know – not the marketing spin you want to give them.

In the past, you could rely on a trade publication to deliver the straight news to hook the reader, and use your ad dollars to deliver your pitch. Today, you have to do both: Deliver honest and subjective (well, honest and subjective enough) news and insights to keep prospects reading, and add the “word from our sponsor” however you can.

 It’s not easy and there are built-in conflicts that come with being a “corporate” or “brand journalist.” But you’ll never succeed at using good content to draw prospects if you don’t pay attention to whether you’re publishing (for profit) or editing (to serve the reader.)

About Bob Scheier

I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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