Although arguably much more than just a buzzword, content marketing is becoming an increasingly key element of a successful online marketing strategy. Achieving success requires the right mix of coordination, creation, compilation, and curation. Having ready access to high quality material that will convert a site visitor into an engaged lead is the goal.
Getting there can require a substantial investment of time and talent, so being mindful of measuring return on investment becomes important for upper management backing. To give stakeholders visibility, it sometimes helps to provide a metaphor that can illustrate how value is being delivered.
One such term that's starting to get used in the content marketing world is the notion of a content factory. Kevin Cain at OpenView describes it this way:
I'm referring to the infrastructure that we have in place to facilitate all of that work (our managing editor, freelancers, content creation and editorial calendars, etc.). It's the careful orchestration of people, processes, and tools that allows us to not only produce a steady stream of high-quality content, but also get it out the door so that people can use it.
While I don't dispute the effectiveness of that infrastructure, I can't bring myself to agree that the term factory is most appropriate for describing it. Granted, the Dictionary application that ships with MacOS X offers up this figurative definition:
a person, group, or institution that produces a great quantity of something on a regular basis or in a short space of time
But it's also true that the concept of factory arose out of the Industrial Revolution as a way of describing the physical plant where a product could be produced at scale on a highly uniform basis. Deviation from the specification or customization were kept at a minimum. With the former, you got rejects, and with the latter, you got increased costs due to retooling.
In content marketing, stamping out the same thing in large quantities is the last thing you want. To be sure, you need enough content to address the concerns and interests of your potential customers, but knowing what content to place where and when requires experimentation.
Hypothesizing, trying, measuring, analyzing, identifying success, and refining are all parts of the Scientific Method. If you don't have these pieces built into your infrastructure, your content factory might as well be churning out Edsels for all you know. Because of this, I think that a laboratory makes for a much better metaphor. Your content production infrastructure should be a place where value is discovered, where the know-how to tailor and deliver is derived.
What do you think? Is laboratory a better way to picture content marketing infrastructure, or does that just conjure up images of a mad scientist running amok?