Why Westmonster, Breitbart and The Drudge Report matter to content marketers

Think that Arron Banks’s launch of Westmonster, an anti-establishment news site, isn’t significant for content marketers? Think again.

Good content marketing should not seem like marketing at all. The reader/viewer/listener should not be able to discern the difference between marketing-driven content and straight content. That’s the theory, but start to unpack this approach and you’ll find some challenges (and some significant opportunities).

There’s broad agreement that people don’t like a hard sell camouflaged as something more objective. Indeed, some of the most effective content marketing doesn’t sell at all. It meets the needs of an audience, and the business benefit comes from association rather than content operating as secret sales collateral.

So we should play it straight. Act like proper journalists on mainstream newspapers and websites. If only life were so simple…

Media agendas

The mainstream media rarely operates in a truly objective way. TV networks, newspapers and websites are owned by wealthy individuals who set the agenda. Elections can turn on whether Rupert Murdoch and the might of his media empire support a candidate.

Sometimes the political position is explicit; sometimes the agenda is hidden. Even organisations like the BBC cannot be free from bias, if only as a result of the socio-political make up of its senior staff. It may be an unconscious bias, but it exists.

Digital disruptors

Some audiences don’t want objective news. They want content that is skewed to fit their view of the world. That doesn’t mean what they’re reading is untrue, just that it has been filtered to take out anything that may challenge their beliefs.

This may mean simply choosing between a left- or right-leaning newspaper – or it may be more extreme.

Enter Arron Banks and Westmonster. The site certainly doesn’t hide its political leanings, describing itself as ‘Pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump. Anti-establishment, anti-open borders, anti-corporatism’. It’s paid for by a wealthy individual and is there to push a very clear political position.

Westmonster follows in the footsteps of US news sites such as Breitbart and The Drudge Report with their right and far-right agendas.

A content marketing blog is not the place to discuss the rights and wrongs of these sites and the opinions they promote. But what is clear is that the appetite for such sites is growing, along with the parallel phenomena of fake news and social media feeds that enclose users in a self-affirming bubble. (There’s a great BBC radio documentary on that topic, as well as a Content Desk post on the subject of social media ‘echo chambers’.)

Content marketing must adapt

Audiences’ views of what constitutes normal content are changing with seismic shifts in world politics and technological advances. The rulebook is being ripped up, creating a new set of obstacles and opportunities for content marketers.

We’ve discussed whether your business needs to take a more political stance in this recent post. You also need to decide if the tone of your content is right for your audience. Around 50% of Americans voted for Trump with his in-your-face approach to communication. More than 50% of Britons who voted chose to leave the EU. Does your content chime with their view of this country and its future?

Topic, tone, treatment and channel are all elements of the mix that you may need to reconsider. Ignore what is happening in the broader media world and your content will become out of touch – failing to engage with audiences who are becoming more political, polemical and polarised.

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