Should content marketing include advertising?

Content costs. Done well, it is a worthwhile investment, but are there ways to offset the cost and increase engagement or impact? Does advertising ever have a place in B2B content marketing?

There is a growing realisation among consumers of B2C and B2B content that there’s no such thing as a free whitepaper/box set/website. If we think of content in its broadest sense then the expectation is that the price will be some form of advertising, an invitation to submit an email address or a subscription.

People still expect to get something for nothing, but when they realise that the content is of high quality they are not surprised when asked to pay for it in some way, or to see it accompanied by advertising.

This is certainly true for consumer print publications where ads can add value. The advertising that accompanies content in glossy magazines is part of the feeling of a complete product. If you’re publishing a fashion title, you want a Prada double page spread at the front. The reader expects some soulful teen to be draped over a chaise longue – it’s part of the package.

B2B case study: economia

The more an audience feels like they are receiving quality content for free, the more likely your brand is to be meeting its content marketing objectives. And advertising can help.

economia is a print and digital magazine produced by Progressive Content for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). It is distributed in print to more than 130,000 people, making it to the widest read business and finance monthly magazine in the UK.

It is a piece of top-end, award-winning content marketing – and it carries advertising. Producing such a title takes a financial commitment from the ICAEW and it would be understandable if they wanted to cover some of those costs. But having invested so much it would be pointless to gain some income at the cost of the effectiveness of the magazine.

Fortunately, the issue does not arise. A well-briefed sales team ensures that only suitable potential advertisers are approached. The quantity and position of ads is carefully managed. The result is a magazine that feels more like a paid-for title and is of greater value to its readers.

B2C and the Holy Grail

It is a subtle effect, but when I flick through my copy of Pet People magazine, (sent to me as a dog-owning customer of Petplan) the ads for dog food and flea collars make me think of it as a proper mag rather than a marketing freebie.

Sports Forever, the customer magazine of Sports Direct, takes things one step further. Adverts for Head and Shoulders and New Balance are mixed with the retailer’s own ads – and there is a £2 cover price.

Charging people to consume your content feels all wrong for most content marketers. But this should be the goal: to produce content so good that your audience will pay to consume it.

Any sort of price barrier will reduce audience size, so it may not be something that you’d choose to do, but ask yourself the question anyway: ‘would people pay to read this?’

If the answer is no, then you may be doing something wrong.

Editor's pick

Most popular