Great tech, powerful talk

October 20th, 2015

Content and technology are inseparable. From the printing press to the blog, how we create and share content with ever-wider audiences has been defined by the tools at our disposal. The next step? Bring brands, content creators and consumers into a tight new ecosystem. PCP’s Dan Davey welcomes you to the ConTech revolution.

We all love great editorial, brilliant illustration and stunning design. But let’s be honest: no writing, art or design movement has ever advanced the dissemination of information even remotely as much as a handful of technologists have. Throughout the ages, creative people and their audiences have learned to love geeks bearing gifts.

At every inflection point, content technology has gone way beyond attracting attention or making people think differently – as many great writers and artists have done. It’s opened the door to exponential growth and epochal change in the way we communicate.

Here are three examples. Gutenberg’s printing press meant, for the first time, that ordinary people could consume the written word. Historians estimate there were roughly 30,000 books in the whole of Europe before the first Gutenberg bible was pressed in the 1450s. By 1500, there were up to 12 million books in circulation.

Pushing inky carvings onto dead trees was the dominant content technology until the 1970s, when electronic word processing allowed people to store, edit and share their writing without ever resorting to paper. We’ll give special mention – writing in the UK – to the Amstrad PCW, which in 1985 became one of the first mass-market computers, sold principally as a work processor.

The web changed everything. But blogging is our final example. Its poster child?, launched in 1999, which allowed anyone with a computer and a modem to create and consume content using nice-looking, customisable templates and reliable hosting.

And then came content marketing…

Actually, content marketing pre-dates all of those technologies. Medieval monks and even the hieroglyphic scribes in the Valley of the Kings would craft stories and presentation styles to package a variety of brand messages, from the wisdom of the Pharoahs to the advisability of making donations to the church. Let’s not even get started on the Medicis

But until now, content marketing has followed these technological shifts. That’s changing. What we’re witnessing now is a revolution in technology driven by the needs of content marketing. And because our industry loves nothing more than a fresh buzzword, we’re calling this new paradigm “ConTech”.

So what makes ConTech different? What are the attributes that qualify something as a ConTech system? Here’s a starter list:

1. ConTech must have great content at its core.

We’re not just talking about collaboration tools or account management software. ConTech isn’t just about streamlining processes. It’s about a dedicated approach to creating great content – from idea to finished article.

2. ConTech has to integrate planning and execution.

What brands value most from content marketers is insight on what to produce and how to produce it. Real ConTech weaves that into the process, it’s not an add-on. Human expertise stands behind great content – and great ConTech.

3. ConTech is not the preserve of experts.

Brands want to be responsive, to access the right content experts at their convenience. ConTech must directly connect the people needing content and the people creating it – using and applying expertise rather than erecting fences.

4. ConTech doesn’t end when the job is signed off.

Content marketers already know that clients are demanding. They want to know how hard their content is working, who’s seeing it, what they’re doing as a result. ConTech must reflect this and offer tools to share, monitor and review.

5. ConTech must be scalable.

There are always going to be jobs that need editorial intervention. A ConTech solution without an option for expertise and advice cannot serve the full range of client needs. But as brands get smarter about the content they need, and the community of content creators grows, we need low-maintenance systems and processes that can scale at ease – without going into a blind panic about quality control or trying to hire 65 creative experts in 12 months.

(Scale, after all, was what the printing press was all about: “This shift from institution to process is one of the defining characteristics of the shift from the Gutenberg to post-Gutenberg world,” wrote one social media guru. He could have been talking about ConTech.)

In many ways, we’re talking about “content as a service”. Some of the rules about software as a service (SaaS) are useful when thinking about ConTech, too. But we don’t like “CaaS” – it’s been hijacked to refer to the tailored consumption of content or to describe the techie, server-side systems to manage content management systems (CMSs).

ConTech takes us beyond conventional CMS or even content marketing platforms – which have seen so much investment in the US – which tend to become tools for collaboration or aggregation; or “dating agencies” to put brands and writers in touch with each other. It’s about whole eco-systems that cater to all content needs and uses.

ConTech in practice

As our industry becomes more important and starts to garner more attention, the disparate or fragmented approaches we’ve become used to start not just to look out of date, but actually to hurt the whole industry.

Brands need to be able to get the full package – to understand what’s possible, plan campaigns, settle on the right topics, meet and commission great content creators, check their work, share it and see how it’s performed… all in one. They need reliable tech, expert advice and access to great creators.

Not being able to do that can be a pain for big business. (That’s one reason PCP’s own ConTech solution, Content Cloud®, has been picking up some of the biggest brands in financial services and other sectors this year.)

For smaller clients – often the most in need of a content marketing solution to cut through the jostling mass of big brand messaging – it’s more than just a pain. It’s a massive turn off.

Almost every agency and platform claims they can create content. But every penny spent on ineffective material weakens businesses and makes them more vulnerable to competitors. Every growing business turned off by the complexity or lack of accountability and control in content marketing is a massive loss to the industry as a whole.

Generic, mediocre content pushed out to a broad, untargeted audience no longer works. The focus has to be ways brands can achieve relevance, gain genuine engagement with their audience and understand the effects of their marketing. And that’s why ConTech has to fulfill all those functions, not just make some of them less fretful.

That’s certainly been our experience. The combination of our powerful network of 1,000 content experts, bespoke workflow solutions and tools that increase effectiveness and track return on investment is already helping catapult brands ahead of their competition.

We don’t fear other agencies and software developers building genuine ConTech solutions – we welcome it. Content marketing as an industry needs to build a reputation with clients – and with readers/customers – as trusted, transparent, hassle-free and rich with value. We’re proud that Content Cloud® is paving the way. But a widespread ConTech revolution will ensure our whole industry wins.

Dan Davey, MD, Progressive Customer Publishing
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