Why does the term “content creator” send shivers down a creative’s spine? It’s no wonder that a professional copywriter or graphic designer repels the thought of holding the same title as the likes of Youtube prank stars or adolescent TikTokers; it’s mildly belittling, contingent on your perspective of course. There is a lot of conversation circling the resistance or acceptance of influencer versus creator, and according to The Atlantic, this distinguishment aligns with age, platform, and “transactional connotation.” However, the collateral resistance to the title “content creator” in the professional world of business and marketing is miscalculated.
Content creation holds an elusive definition. As our world shifts to digital, more and more avenues open up for creatives of all types to develop their craft, whether it be video entertainment, social media, blogging, etc. Imagine a heart with many veins reaching out: Youtube as the lungs, Instagram as the stomach, then Twitter, Linkedin, and finally little veins reducing to the smallest of niche platforms on the tips of the fingers (i.e. an infamous Reddit troll). There is just so much content out there, how can we account for all crafts of content under one umbrella creator?
This is the first installment of our series: The Content Creator Chronicles. With the emergence of this career path, it is important to distinguish between the different types of creators, as the multitude of digital platforms will only grow. The future is hard to pinpoint with online media reproducing like cells dividing in a growing baby: the Internet brain child. We’re interested in exploring this largely untold story of content creation today.
In this first piece, we will explore the implications of content creation in written form. Journalists, content marketers, bloggers, and digital storytellers of all kinds exist out there. While your grandparents may see “writing” as a career path that strictly follows a system of getting published by an established print media company or publishing house, the age of the Internet has allowed for writing to take a highly dynamic form.
Distinguishing Content Creating from Entertainment
The term “content creator” initially refers to the Youtube stars of the early 2010s.
According to the Atlantic, Youtube started to allow advertisements on user-uploaded content in January of 2009. This opened up the floodgates for video content creation and idolization of Youtube stars. Now, creators could monetize their videos and therefore create a reputable and sustaining career and living off of the platform.
A wide spectrum exists for Youtube in terms of skill, talent, and type of content. You could find everything from a viral young teenage girl making videos in her bedroom about makeup, to elaborate travel vloggers, to DIY craftsmen. There was more access across industries to adopt this language of content, and it defined a generation of digital creators.
Over the years, other creatives in different industries started to resist the title “content creator” because it referred to the industry of Youtube or entertainment content, rather than professional business content or high creative work. How could the single title account for content creators in marketing, writing, editorial, or social media for big brands?
Similar to a Youtube creator or Instagram influencer garnering a social following to build community, blogging does the same, just through written content.
High Demand for Written Content = High Supply?
The journalism, writing, and editorial industries are changing, and it’s because the medium changed first. The medium is the message, so to speak.
When blogging first grew in popularity in the past decade, the landscape was primarily lifestyle, travel, or food bloggers. These writers and bloggers garnered social followings independent of streaming platforms or exterior publications: they were individuals who connected with their audience through strictly their own platform, being the blog.
Now, brands want to emulate that same engagement with their audience, and the medium of choice is online blogging. The DTC and eCommerce space is taking the model of blogs and applying it to their own brand.. Most digitally-native brands have accompanying blogs these days, as the emphasis in content creation is apparent for consumers.
Matcha, the blog creator platform designed for brand building, writes on their own blog about the growing demand for this content:
“A thriving audience is every brand’s most valuable asset. In the new world of customer choice, content isn’t just ‘king;’ it’s currency. Especially written content.” - Aaron Orendoff, former Editor-in-Chief of Shopify.
Furthermore, Matcha breaks down the benefits of including an accompanying blog for your DTC business. For brand building, it helps your DTC reach new audiences, showcase products, share a company’s story and values, and become a trusted authority in your niche. Second, it drives traffic to your site essentially for free, compared to the cost of paid ads on other platforms. And perhaps most importantly, it acquires and retains more loyal customers for your business, engaging people across channels with written content and gives customers a reason to keep coming back, even if they’re not in the mindset to make a purchase. Growing a loyal customer base and social following is perhaps the most significant objective your eCommerce brand can have, and DTC blogs have become the shining precedent to achieving this.
This objective can be achieved through a smart blog content strategy, which Matcha guest wrote on our blog about here. In the race of DTC businesses, your brand can differentiate and bring something new and fresh to the table through engaging blog content, something that Amazon cannot combat with. Whether your DTC sells toddler apparel or male wellness products, a content channel can be curated around product and brand authenticity.
Glossier’s Into the Gloss set a golden example of this strategy with their blog content covering everything in the beauty industry to promote their brand and products. Outdoor Voice’s blog, The Recreationalist, similarly achieved this one-stop-shop for content by curating city guides, outdoor playlists, and recreation tips and tricks around the country: all activities that can be done with ease and style in their outdoor-oriented apparel.
So who is writing this content? The necessity for written content and excellent communication has brought a major shift in the journalism and editorial industry as more companies (especially in eCommerce) need to hire for media/content creator/marketing positions. Brands need writers to tell their story, and hone in on their brand identity. Young professionals, college graduates, and fresh writers need work.
eCommerce blogs portray the importance of applying storytelling and narratives to business. Crafting an engaging narrative around a brand is essential to connecting to a larger audience and consumer base.
What’s In a Position Title?
Think: Don Draper in Mad Men, Head Copywriter for a top advertising agency in New York City, 1960s. 80 years ago, the business industry hired for creative positions, individuals that could ideate an abundant amount of creative direction, whether that be the slogan for a campaign, or the descriptive summary of a product to market to a consumer group. These copywriters of the past still exist today, of course, under the same title. But with the industry shape-shifting at a rapid pace, copywriters of today also have a new name, and those often fall under “content creators.”
Brittany Werges, the Editor-in-Chief of Denver’s 303 Magazine spoke to us on this new wave of work:
“The way journalism is shifting: the voice is a lot more casual, but stylized, its own language. You look at publications like The Cut, or even Paper Magazine, and see how they communicate to the world. Internet culture is going to drive eCommerce for a long time. Being in the know of how the Internet talks is really important, because that’s the language that Gen Zers and millennials speak these days.”
Werges has 8 years of experience under her belt at Denver’s culture online publication. She has noticed the influx of college graduates and young professionals entering the editorial field, and oftentimes, observes the demand for excellent written communicators in not only the journalism and publication industries, but eCommerce and DTC companies too.
“You see more and more media and journalism positions in companies because writing and narratives are so important. You have to create a brand story, now more than ever.”
Companies need a fresh perspective. Perhaps they need a rebrand, or they’re stuck in the same design pitfalls that unfortunately a lot of DTC brands are turning towards: the dreaded blanding. These pain points are solved by A) a smart blog strategy or content channel to attach and contextualize to the brand, and B) creative employees to run that content. This is where copywriting and creative writing has evolved to in the industry. Whether you land in advertising or marketing, content creators are needed to tell brand stories.
In 2018, WeWork analyzed a Conductor survey and wrote on this demand for content creators. They declared a 33% jump in content marketing demand, and a 43% jump in SEO positions, as more content moves digital. They stated, “The increase of jobs across the 20 top markets in the U.S. comes as online content replaces traditional advertising.” Their findings emphasize how having skills across the creative board are beneficial to the field of digital marketing. Journalists have a real advantage here, one where it was once seemingly a huge detriment as print publications started to go extinct.
Perhaps our digitally native brands are turning that writing stigma on its head: we actually need more writers than ever before, rather than editorial and journalism going extinct. It’s only growing.
Let’s take a look at a few DTC examples. Hims, a male wellness DTC company, runs a blog named Savoir Faire, or the Hims Journal. Reflecting their product spectrum, their content topics cover everything from sex, mental health, skin care, and hair care. A content channel gives male consumers, or even females looking for products for their partners, brothers, fathers, and friends, a reason to keep coming back: it’s a one-stop shop for all things male wellness.
Senreve, a luxury handbag DTC brand, pumps out content on their blog, The Handle: Where Wit Meets Elegance. They leverage their written content to promote their products according to reports on trends and seasons, yet also narrate exterior topics like the election, sustainability in eCommerce, and even cooking recipes. Their range of topics only expands their audience, widening a funnel for their consumer base. Brands like Senreve need content marketers and writers who can not only identify and embody the brand story of luxury handbags, but connect their product with the large scheme of the industry, to investigate any correlating topics.
The People Behind the Numbers
These blogs aren’t writing themselves. And if you think that curating a content channel is as easy as tasking your existing product marketer to run an entire blog: think again.
So where are these writers coming from, and how can your brand hire them?
Of course you cannot major in Content Creation at University, or even take a course on it, because it holds a dynamic definition. There are so many types of content one can create, and a variety of backgrounds the creator can come from that contextualizes their work. Whether that be business, law, communication, psychology, etc., the common thread that companies are looking for are professionals with excellent written communication.
According to Education Data, among the 1.9 million undergraduates who received a degree, around 390,000 majored in Business, while only 92,000 majored in Communication/Journalism, and only 88,000 in Visual Arts.
It’s difficult to pinpoint if business majors are totally equipped for written content creator positions, and if they’ll beat out other journalists and writers for these positions at online publications or DTC brands in eCommerce.
By hiring post-graduates or professionals trained in art or writing, a fresh perspective can be applied to your company. Young professionals with these types of degrees did not study with the intent of making great advertisements or writing product-oriented content, but rather they studied how to produce great work and tell a good story. The benefits to hire and/or go into this type of work are apparent when viewing the effects of novel, fresh, and illuminating content in a company’s branding.
One blogger on Medium wrote on this dilemma of how creatives get into the field of content creation, “It’s good for people to get a good grounding in their creative niche before they become content creators.” Talent is undeniably required to be creative. It’s important to let kids and young adults grow into their creative niches before applying the skills to the world of content.
Writers can be hired for companies across the board, and are widely needed. A Saas company like Atlassian which sells various tech tools runs a blog called Work Life, proving that a studied and experienced writer could enter a tech industry. Or consider a DTC company like Goodee that houses an online collective of artisan and stylish homegoods. Their blog covers a variety of lifestyle topics, needing to be sustained by an army of well-equipped written communicators. Even a company as niche as Homesick, who sells iconic beer-can shaped candles ordained to different places and states around the country to evoke moods of nostalgia or comfort, can run DTC blogs, and need writers to run them.
Calling All Writers
The copious amount of blogs out there on the Internet signify a natural increase in demand of content creators to run them. And judging from the expanding definition of qualified writers for DTC blogs and social followings, this high demand is met with a high supply. Perhaps when Kurt Vonnegut said, “The arts are not a way to make a living,” he was incorrect, because for lack of better words, content creation is a highly profitable art form for creatives. Maybe it’s even the modern application of art to business and eCommerce. So just how lucrative is it to go into the arts than we previously realized?