Northside Festival: Media Innovators Debate Content and Customers

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Northside Festival 2015 Brooklyn

The following is a guest post by writer Katie Conneally:

At the 2015 Northside Festival’s Innovation conference in Brooklyn, NY (co-sponsored by Dell and Intel), “content” and “customer engagement” were on everyone’s minds. In a panel titled “Publisher, Platform, or Both? Online Content Communities Where You Least Expect Them,” panelists from Medium, LinkedIn and Gawker discussed their role in content creation and distribution.

For LinkedIn’s executive editor Dan Roth, it was about “getting people writing where readers already are,” which works well for the business audience. Gawker Media founder and CEO Nick Denton used the term “platisher” (platform publisher) to describe his network of blogs’ role in the new content ecosystem—they publish their own content, but serve as a platform through the Kinja comment and user-publishing system. And Medium’s Evan Hansen noted that in this nascent stage, “brands are all on equal footing” and have an opportunity to prove their trustworthiness and authenticity to consumers.

Northside Festival Innovation 2015

In the panel “An Unexpected Challenge: How to Market the Next Big Thing,” Slack app founder Bill Macaitis discussed his strategy of “customer delight” to help Slack stand out in the “team communications” space. He sees content marketing as one piece of customer relationship management, and emphasized the idea of aligning your business and brand’s success with your customer’s success. For Slack, that means customers don’t pay unless they actually use the product—an interesting business model that incentivizes Slack to make sure the product is one people want to use.

Northside Festival 2015 Brooklyn New York app MasterCardOn another panel, Or Arbel—founder of last year’s viral app, Yo!—discussed the idea of “content vs. context.” While at launch Yo! was all about the context, Arbel mentioned how partnerships have given the original context some useful content. For example, Chelsea soccer fans can get a Yo! notification pushed to them whenever Chelsea scores a goal, keeping them up to date on the game without having to open an app.

But with all this content out there, when is enough enough? On a panel about disruptive media with panelists from the New York Times, the Guardian and Vocativ, discussion turned to the idea that “everyone creating content on a constant basis can be incredibly disruptive.” And on a panel on “Minimum Viable Products,” startup founders noted that content-focused startups are a dime a dozen these days due to their low barrier to entry—“It’s much easier to test content than products to see if your content has an audience…but competition is intense.”

The question is, as consumers become more attuned to branded content, how will their opinions and attention shift? From the discussions at Northside Innovation it’s clear that content marketing and the importance of content in driving customer engagement isn’t going away, but will need to keep evolving to stay relevant.


—Katie Conneally is a Brooklyn-based writer and creative strategist. Images via Northside Festival/Instagram.

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