Content Brief: fake news problems, Medium’s “new” business model, and more content marketing news

We are nearly a quarter of the way through 2017. How did that happen? No matter. This month, we’re catching up with the fake news problem, exploring Medium’s new subscription model, and checking out who’s active in the content game. Without further ado, here’s what you missed in content marketing news throughout March.

The fake news problem persists

What is fake news? Will you know it when you see it? Can we establish a certain set of criteria to parse out fake news from real news? Can we do so without partisanship or other inherent biases? That is one of many debates surrounding the fake news epidemic worldwide.

Even if we can’t decide what fake news is and isn’t, tech companies and communities are trying to tackle the problem—with varying degrees of success. For every step Google takes to prevent ads from appearing next to hateful content, LinkedIn claims that there is no fake news problem on their platform. For every story of teachers and communities teaching students to distinguish fake news, there’s backlash at Harvard University for its fake news guide. One step forward, one step back.

Why does it matter if news is fake? Consider this: news is something to be consumed. That means it’s a form of content. If news is content and it is fake, it can discredit real news—and real content—and that’s a big problem for brands, content marketers, and anyone else who leverages content.

Medium’s new subscription model looks familiar

Medium’s mission to find the next great business model for publishing looks awfully familiar. Partly inspired by Spotify and Patreon, Medium is asking users to pay $5 a month to support independent voices for “a better reading experience and even better content.” Medium believes media is broken (e.g. ads and ad viewing experiences), and its quest for the Holy Grail of a working business model for publishers is a noble one, even after its last attempt resulted in Medium laying off a third of its staff.

Medium’s solution to the business model quandary is promising, but it’s ultimately nothing new. Publishers have been asking for money to support their ad-free content and journalism for some time now. By providing “members-only content” for a fee, Medium is simply inserting themselves as a middleman between these consumers and independent publishers, who were convinced to join their ranks in exchange for advertising revenue at their previous business model. That’s all gone under this new model, and these publishers will have to look elsewhere for sponsored content and ad money.

Who’s in the content game this month?

Genius, the lyric annotation tool and website, is no longer just a tech startup. It announced that the company is moving to become a “video-first” media company. The Verge contextualized the move here, noting that this is another pivot in a long-run of 180-degree turns. Key takeaway: the startup is finding greater value in creating content for its customers than its proprietary software.

Elsewhere, Apple is making another play in the content game, though this time its eyes are set on user-generated content (UGC). Starting in April, its new video app, Clips, will be available for iPhone and iPad to cut together images, videos, music, and more. The app will likely compete with Snapchat, Facebook Live, Instagram, and other video apps, which may signal that Apple is ready to invest more apps in the marketplace it helped create. User-generated content is often forgotten in the content game, but it plays a big role in brand engagement. By creating Clips, Apple is recognizing this and giving media companies the necessary tools to incorporate UGC.

Finally, Snap Inc. has inked a deal with MGM Television—the studio behind TV shows such as Survivor, Fargo, and Shark Tank—to develop and produce shows for the app’s Discover platform. Since Snapchat launched its IPO, everyone wants to know whether Snapchat is the new Facebook or the next Twitter. But with this move, it’s fair to say that Snap Inc. (and thus Snapchat) are separating themselves from other social networks by greatly investing in original media and content.


  • Ketchup is getting meta: Heinz is running a series of “Pass the Heinz” ads decades after they rejected them—in the Mad Men universe, that is. Within the fictional world of the show, Don Draper and co. pitched an ad to Heinz that didn’t even feature the product. Now, in the 21st century, Heinz has approved the modern ad campaign with the help of a real-life advertising agency. Everything is a remake these days!

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