summer / 2015

The magazine of branded content
The Speculator
Rebecca Lieb sees a rosy yet crowded future of content marketing through the lens of her exhaustive research
Aug 4, 2015

Ask anyone in-the-know about the proliferation of software that’s been flooding the content marketing space and they’ll tell you to talk to Rebecca Lieb. A former analyst at Silicon Valley-based Altimeter Group (she’s currently VP of content marketing at Teradata Group), she’s the de-facto research wonk of content marketing. We spoke to her and asked if she could give some narrative to the data.

Content: A year ago you said that the future of content marketing tools will be in stacks that accommodate everything from content creation to compliance. Teradata provides software for these types of solutions. Where are we at now in that evolution?
Rebecca Lieb: When I started doing this research in 2014, in the six months it took me, I saw the software landscape increase from about 80 companies to about 150. Now there’s well over 200 companies in the content marketing software space—and there would be even more if the big players like Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce weren’t buying some of them up. So there’s tons of activity on the product development level and we’re seeing some of these players get very, very successful.

You also said at that time that no vendor has an end-to-end solution but you did mention that Adobe was best poised to do that.
We identified basically three main buckets of content workflow and eight separate workflow scenarios: everything ranging from creation to curation and aggregation through to governance, legal and compliance. Nobody’s got an end-to-end solution, a content stack in the sense that there are advertising stacks that do it all. Integration is very hard when you’re a company like Adobe building software and then getting it to play nice with all the other software. So, Adobe has the most pieces of the puzzle but nobody has integrated these eight different workflow scenarios into one seamless software solution yet.

IBM has not gotten involved. Can you speculate as to why they haven’t?
I think IBM is the proverbial 2,000-pound gorilla in this space. I can’t tell you why but if they wanted to do it tomorrow they could. One thing that IBM has invested in very heavily is the social marketing software space: we call it the SMSS. I’m predicting that over the next couple of years the content marketing stack is going to absorb the social marketing software space and we’ve already seen very big players in social media marketing, like Sprinklr, move very aggressively into the content space and that’s just because social media is really just a platform for content. Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn: they’d all be empty if it wasn’t for content. So that can be applied to IBM. You could argue IBM is in the space in the social respect if not across the entirety of the stack.

Between ad agencies and PR agencies, which do you think has the biggest challenges when it comes to storytelling?
I think they both have equal challenges and the reason is converged media. We’re seeing PR agencies, for the first time in history, make media buys; but, by the same token, advertising agencies are terrific at media buying but really don’t look at content as content. They look at content as creative: something to fill space or time in the context of advertising. So, all of these agencies are learning new skill sets and nearly all of them, certainly all of the major ones, have opened up global chains of newsrooms and grand storytelling plays. At the same time we’re looking at publishers trying to be a content marketing agency. This is a way for them to get incremental revenues and they’ve always done this in the context of advertorials, haven’t they?

A problem that a lot of content marketing agencies face is there’s often no chief content officer at a brand. There’s no one leading the purchasing of content and strategy. Have you seen that change?
That is absolutely changing. As media converge, as paid owned and earned come together, organizations are really beginning to realize the need for content and the fact that, I get quoted as saying this all the time, content is really the atomic particle of all marketing. You don’t have advertising without content, you don’t have social media without content, you don’t have a website without content and with brands, with very large brands like GE and IBM, publishing more content every week, today, than Time magazine did during its heyday, companies are finally addressing the need that “We need somebody to run this. This is not something that communications or social media can do in their spare time.”

Do you see in three years or five years the big content supermarkets winning or the boutique type places winning?
It’s going to be a balance. Some people shop local; some people go to Walmart.