Toronto media company St. Joseph Communications has made its first foray into the growing content marketing arena with the launch of a new division, Strategic Content Labs.
Former National Post publisher and editor-in-chief Doug Kelly is heading the new division, which has yet to announce its first client or project. Speaking with Marketing earlier this week, Kelly said his intention is to build a “top-of-class” content creation company.
Kelly has had what he characterized as “explanatory discussions” with several marketers and agencies, outlining the Strategic Content Labs offering and identifying potential content solutions.
The division’s potential is vast, he said, with potential clients including corporations, associations, government bodies and even PR firms and advertising agencies. “As someone who has been in this industry over 30 years, and with all these dire predictions around content, it’s interesting that it is in many ways going through a real renaissance in terms of its value in the broader media offering,” he said.
Kelly, who left the Post in June after being with the publication since its launch in 1998, said he had a “genuine desire” to try something else after spending more than 30 years in the newspaper industry with the Post and it’s predecessor, The Financial Post.
“I spent several months talking to just a whole bunch of people that I’d ran across in my professional life, just trying to get a sense of their industries and where they thought the world of communications was going,” he said. “I talked to old media, new media, communications and marketing companies, corporations and associations, and over the months my interest gradually solidified into getting into this brave new world of content marketing.”
Kelly said that Strategic Content Labs plans to build custom content from the ground up. Existing St. Joseph properties such as Toronto Life and Fashion are unlikely to be destinations for created content, with Kelly suggesting it will reside primarily on the web and social media platforms.
“At the end of the day those are the platforms that allow you the greatest measurement and accuracy; who you’re talking to and how they’re responding to the content,” he explained. “I don’t rule out broadcast or print by any means – it sort of depends on the client and the situation – but I would think that going forward the majority of where this content goes out would be digital and social.”
Content marketing has been part of the marketing vernacular for the years, although its current place in the marketing landscape seems open to debate. For example, articles posted within hours of each other Monday proclaimed, “Why 2014 is the year of content marketing” and “The death of content marketing.”
“This field is expanding so quickly, and advertising and content are undergoing such fundamental changes, there are still mountains of opportunity out there to build something great,” said Kelly. “In terms of how this is positioned, I truly believe, given my background, that we can build a best-in-class content machine. The focus on digital and social differentiates us from many of the existing players out there, and we will be putting a real emphasis on measurement.”
Asked if he had any misgiving about going over to the so-called “dark side” after spending all of his professional career as a traditional newspaperman, Kelly noted that even during his time at the Post he oversaw several major content marketing plays for the likes of General Electric and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
“If you look at something like the CAPP program, it was very successful,” he said. “Is it the ‘dark side?’ When you’re creating content, telling great stories that matters to people, there’s nothing dark about that in my mind.”
He went on to cite Red Bull, which garnered global attention for its involvement with Felix Baumgartner’s free fall from space, as a perfect example of content marketing that offers value to both consumers and the brand.
“What you’re looking at there is exactly what I’m talking about: it’s the creation of vertical content that appeals to some extent to a wide crowd and to some extent on a more niche basis. Its success is always premised on quality and engagement,” he said.
Kelly said that content doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of articles, suggesting that Strategic Content Labs’ output will be a mix of news and feature stories, infographics, images, videos, tweets, social posting and possibly even events. “Content is a pretty wide bucket these days,” he said. “There are a lot of ways of engaging people, and the smart people are going to rely on all of those buckets.”
But what is preventing brands from engaging in content marketing themselves? “For something that’s been around so long, creating content and storytelling is a real art,” said Kelly. “It’s time-consuming, it’s not necessarily [part of marketers’] skill set. We will have a team of people who have done this their entire career, and they know how to properly create and edit it.”