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Content Marketing: Beyond Vanity Publishing

Most content marketing is vanity publishing, and content marketing agencies are the new vanity press.

Vanity publishing is publishing where the publisher pays, not the audience – and where the primary reason for publishing is usually self-aggrandisement (vanity) rather than the benefit of an audience.

That seems to fit the bill for a lot of content marketing; helping brand publish their brand or branded stories – in video, image or word format online – as part of marketing strategy that has self-aggrandisement at its heart, rather than actually helping people.

So far, so uncontroversial.  But there is a dark side to vanity publishing that content marketing industry – the new vanity press – comes perilously close to.  There are evil companies in the world of vanity publishing that prey on the lonely, naive and narcissistic to extract money by offering to publish their life story – for a fee.  No writing or media skills necessary.

Are we – as content marketers – playing on self-absorbed, naive and narcissistic brands to produce content that no-one really wants to see. Doug Klesser of Velocity Partners thinks so – most content marketing is culture-clogging ‘crap’ that just undermines quality marketing by making cutting through harder (and more expensive).  And so does Made By Many that concludes most content marketing is just ‘landfill marketing‘ – disposable flotsam and jetsom that goes straight to the trash heap of marketing.

If content marketing as vanity publishing leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, here’s how content marketing can move beyond vanity publishing

  1. How Can We Help? Start with how you can help your audience, not yourself. If you don’t know – ask them! The future of content marketing is content as a service.
  2. Sponsor Don’t Publish. Consider sponsoring quality content instead of publishing your own – artists, authors, publications, venues and organisations
  3. Don’t Pay for It, Make it Pay.  Adopt the hard commercial mindset of the publishing industry – if it doesn’t sell, don’t publish it.


Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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1 comment
  • I don’t really understand this post. Isn’t this site just content marketing for an agency? Are you saying that’s a bad thing or a good thing? And is content marketing a bad thing or a good thing?

Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.