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I Don’t Write Content, I (Still) Write Articles – a Rant

content“Be Part of the First Industry Survey About Original Research In Content Marketing!” I saw this headline as I got up from my computer to take out the recycling. (Now you know why I say ideas are everywhere!)

As I found my shoes, gathered up the recycling basket and an empty jug of kitty litter I asked myself for the thousandth time how writing articles had morphed into creating content. “I suppose it’s because people see web pages as a container,” I muttered as I tipped open the big blue recycling container.

I may have had this particular insight multiple times before, but I’m feeling a bit rebellious today – maybe because I was up long before the eclipse – and it was lovely, and scary, and mysterious and reminded me how much I love our planet).

“Hrumph,” I may have said out loud, but quietly given the early hour. I don’t want to write content – there’s nothing wrong with the word ‘article.’

‘Content’ seems to have a different connotation than ‘article,’ at least for me. I think of articles being about something. Content is an article about something, but often also written to sell something.

Newspapers and magazines

When I look back at my time editing newspapers and magazines, one of the strongest memories is how hard we worked to make sure editorial (the news and other articles) was kept as far away from advertising as humanly possible. This was true even though we all knew the life of the publication and its ability to pay us were wholly dependent on that advertising department.

The idea was that the paper or magazine would lose its authority if it began writing what advertisers wanted us to write. Sure, we covered things like real estate development – often in its own section, the opening and closing of new shops, manufacturing plants and other businesses in our area of coverage. And we even depended at least  a little bit on seeing press releases and even (horrors) talking occasionally with ad sales reps. But we did so knowing how important it was to keep the separation.

The web and its content are very different

The web is very different. Content is often referred to as ‘content marketing.’ Which gives away the game really. I can’t tell you how many requests I get for paid content on this site, and I’m a pretty small fish. I don’t object to paid content as along as the advertiser doesn’t mind me noting that it is paid or it’s sponsored – which is why you don’t see much of it here. They’re willing to pay me, but they want our relationship hidden. So it’s a no-go as far as I’m concerned.

You know I don’t hesitate to review stuff. Sometimes the subject of the review will say thanks – a couple have even given me a year’s worth of their service, although that hasn’t happened in a long time.

And in spite of my headline I sometimes do write content and am paid for it. But I’m hired to write those pieces and my name doesn’t appear on them. I’m not endorsing what I’m writing about in those cases.

It’s a difference I think we freelance writers need to keep in mind.

The survey? Oh, it’s from BuzzSumo. Their email says in part: So we’re asking for your help: how many of you are publishing your own data-driven original research? What’s working for you — and where are you challenged? And, if you aren’t using original research, why not? Please take 3 – 4 minutes (literally, this has been tested!) to complete this short survey:

Take The Survey

We want to hear from all of you, if you are using research or not. And if you know others who may be interested in taking this survey, please send them the link, or help us get the word out with this tweet:

Are you using original research in your content marketing efforts? Take this 4-minute survey to tell us why or why not: http://bit.ly/2018BuzzSurvey

And no, BuzzSumo has no idea I’m writing this.

Write well and often,

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Hello,
    I really appreciate for writing such a great article, I just started for online earning also new to online marketing (Digital Marketing) I am searching for the many things which make me confusing. But here I found all the answers to my question. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Thanks… you can always ask questions about freelance writing in comments.

  • You know, one of these days I’m going to convince you to put your Twitter handle in your share button so I can give you attribution easier! lol

    I fully agree with your premise here. I wondered about the difference between content and articles, and on my blog I’ll use the terms interchangeably. I hadn’t thought about the sales part… probably because I do little selling (which I probably need to address). Overall I don’t worry about it; my mind translate most of the content I see into articles anyway.

  • valuable stuff for freelancers!

    I came to this site through a link, by chance. but the topics are very interesting. I agree with the thinking of admin that The web is very different. Content is often referred to as ‘content marketing.’ Which gives away the game really.

  • Good thinking , It’s a difference I think we freelance writers need to keep in mind.

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