Blog post

Content Marketing is About Continuous Storytelling

By Jake Sorofman | July 12, 2013 | 5 Comments

digital marketing

Earlier this week, I had a conversation about words with a member of the content marketing cognoscente. That I have conversations about words is probably no great surprise, since I’m a word nerd by inclination and an industry analyst by profession.

In this particular conversation, we discussed the words used to describe content marketing, which is now a discipline at the top of every digital marketer’s en fuego list. We agreed that definitions are blurring, as they often do, as the practice matures and everyone with a stake in the game seeks to place their watermark on the blueprint.

But what is content marketing? It’s certainly different today than it used to be when it referred to the occasionally unsavory practice of cranking out large volumes of relatively low quality content optimized to game organic search rankings. Then, it was about optimizing content for machines. Now, it’s about optimizing content for human beings.

One of the key challenges in describing content marketing is the fact that, for marketers, content is more or less everything. It’s ad copy, it’s the images on your website, and it’s your whitepapers, case studies, promotional offers, and the like. What isn’t content?

Of course, to truly understand content marketing, it’s crucial to understand that the content which drives engagement and social redistribution is fundamentally different in volume, velocity and variety. The truest sign of not getting these distinctions is when brands apply yesterday’s chest-thumping content assets to today’s content marketing techniques. Audiences generally reject it like a foreign body in the bloodstream.

What is content marketing to me? It’s about continuous storytelling. It’s about a steady stream of storytelling innovations—large and small—delivered as an ongoing pulse. A drumbeat.

This concept finds inspiration in the world of product innovation, software development and, more recently, business incubation where agile techniques drive continuous, iterative delivery of features as a probe to discover the richest veins of opportunity. Here, continuous discovery and delivery of innovation—and continuous measurement—are baked into the daily rhythm.

In the world of startups, “MVP” is the hot TLA* these days—minimum viable product. The idea is thinking small to win big. Delivering small innovations more frequently will always serve you better than the inverse. This culture of continuous delivery is built into the daily routine. Software developers can’t rest until they’ve uploaded their code to complete the nightly build. They’re hooked on the continuous pulse of progress.

As a content marketer, you should be, too. Because, when you strip away all the pedantic opinioneering, content marketing is really about one thing: continuous storytelling.

(*) Three letter acronym

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Comments are closed


  • Larry Heathcote says:

    Spot on Jake. Story telling is the new thing.

    When I think about why this is so, a thought comes to mind…. Story telling gets the audience more involved. They engage a broader portion of the brain than just listening/hearing/reading facts and logging them into the intellectual parts of the brain. Story telling makes connections with past memories and emotions, and with more brain activity, the audience is able to remember more than just the facts.

  • Awesome Jake,
    I’m agree with you, content marketing play a big role in all business, now these day all business increasing their budget for Digital Marketing, Now Branding became a competition among all companies & here content lay a big role how to keep users engage with us.
    Thanks for such a nice post…

  • Two observations here
    (a) IMHO, quality is inversely proportional to quantity as far as content is concerned. To ask content marketing experts to create quality content on a mass scale, each and every time will require some magic.
    (b) I don’t believe that you can’t optimise content for human beings on a grand scale because (i) humans always change unlike machine (ii) trying to optimise content for the masses is like finding the lowest common denominator, which almost always means compromising on quality.

  • Commercial Storytelling online is part art, part science.

    Today, the savvy marketer is experimenting with a more advanced approach to digital storytelling and multimedia asset development. It’s inherently strategic in nature, partly because it’s not an afterthought. The story-world is conceived at the very beginning of the project. It’s the foundation for purposeful ongoing story development.

    Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital publishing methods – where we develop narrative across multiple forms of media, in order to deliver unique pieces of related content via our chosen channels.

    These storyline threads are woven together and are in sync with each other – closely linked by the structure that was envisioned within the conceptual story-world ecosystem. Commercial non-fiction storytelling is now being transformed by this forward-thinking methodology.

    More of my thoughts on this topic are here

  • Chris Field says:

    Don’t forget the call to action though. Also, you have to set the time when you say, Once upon a time and when you say, The End, and know that people have followed you. Tough I’d have thought. Is this is about using a storytelling style or a storytelling format?