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Why Chicago Content Marketing is so Revolutionary



    In response to my recent post on article on Chicago's role in content marketing, I asked some of the best and brightest in the city for their opinions. Let's see how they answer the question.

    What is Chicago’s role in the the world of content marketing?

    Tim Frick, founder, Mightybytes

    As a large publishing and advertising town with new tech startups opening their doors every week, one might think Chicago would be a leading community in the world of content marketing. I'm not sure that's the case though. I see many people asking the right questions and plenty of interest, but there seems to be a shortage of resources and especially expertise in some of the more technical areas of content marketing best practices. The stage is set for growth. A large, Chicago-based multi-track conference to address these needs would be great!

    Gini Dietrich, CEO, Arment Dietrich

    I'd like to think Chicago will eventually compete with Silicon Valley and even Austin, in terms of start-ups. And that means looking at trends and building companies around them. As you mentioned, there is some of that with the Groupons and GrubHubs of the world, but as a city, we need to buckle down and be more supportive of the start-ups here. That means investing in the entrepreneurs, thinking outside the normal tech companies, embracing trends, and supporting the community as a whole. When that happens more consistently, content marketing (or other digital trends) will have a place in the entrepreneurial world of Chicago.

    There is an interesting start-up here called Narrative Science. They have created algorithms that allow content to be developed around data-driven stories, such as Little League baseball games and Fortune 250 and below quarterly financial updates. There also is a place for online education or professional development designed around content. When embracing these kinds of trends and not letting the "traditional" ways of doing things hamper our vision, content marketing will help Chicago take its place as a start-up community that rivals the Silicon Valley.

    Brad Spirrison, vice president of content, Appolicious and AndroidApps.com

    Chicagoans are pioneers in using creative storytelling to sell products and services. From the Sears Catalog, to the Guiding Light to Groupon, local content creators always discover ways to convert marketing messages into engaging experiences for consumers. This is for good reason. Chicago is a cosmopolitan city situated within "Middle America" that is not tied to one particular industry or sensibility. We will never rival Silicon Valley as a tech hub, Manhattan as a center of finance or Hollywood as a creative community. Yet no other market has a core of professionals that can naturally balance the best of those disciplines to create something entirely new. My money is on Chicago to continue to bring it and pioneer new methods in content marketing.

    James Ellis, Digital Strategist, Closerlook, Inc.

    In New York, the focus is money. For the financial capital of the country (and the western world, depending on how you measure) money is the first, last and only unit of measurement, they think in money. They don't care if you know who they are, they know where they rank in relation to the Bloombergs and Trumps. When New York wants something, like your attention, they buy it. They don’t need a smart idea or star power to gain our attention, they work the field of sheer repetition simply because they can afford to: Show me a commercial for Domino's Pizza enough times, and I might actually buy one.

    In Los Angeles, the unit of measurement is star power. In the land of movies, TV and pop stars, where you ranked in this magazine's list and how many mentions in that tabloid determines your value.  Even when they make enough to shame New Yorkers, talking about money is tacky, (that's what agents and managers are for). When LA wants your attention, they throw famous people at you. That's the only reason why I know Jessica Simpson pitches for Weight Watchers.

    So if money and glitz are taken, where does that leave Chicago?

    Right now, the most interesting and useful media model of media is that of "paid, owned and earned:"

    Paid media are the commercials in which Jessica Simpson shows her before and after pics. She goes on talk shows and her fame means "journalists" "cover" the "story." Her fame is the driver of our attention. In what other town could Kim Kardashian, Kato Kaelin or Kevin Federline become household names?

    Owned media is the channels you own. Bloomberg owns Bloomberg. Money owns the TV stations and web sites. Dominos wants me to go to their website (that they own) so I can buy a pizza. Money is the driver of our attention. Commercials tell us to buy "light" orange juice (juice with extra water added) or that the same product in a brand new package is somehow a good thing.

    Earned media is the spawn of something Chicagoans do well: talking about what we know, helping other people with their problems, building things and working on things. We earn your attention through hard work and the value add. We are the home of 37Signals, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, FeedBurner, Orbitz, RedBox, and SPSS, companies that help us think better, work better, job search better, read better, travel better and live better.

    And while Chicago has a long history of publications and catalogs, the niche we are carving is similar to that of the Bay Area or Austin, where the content just happens to be more tech-centric. Chicago will earn its attention the way it did 100 years ago, on the back of broad shoulders. Though this time instead of working the train yards and packing houses, this time we bear the burden of considered thought, of a righteous position, or a smart marriage of ideas on those broad shoulders.

    Mana Ionescu, president, Lightspan Digital

    Chicago has always been the land of content marketers -- from Louis Sullivan to Burnham, the great minds of the city have been reflecting their ideas through writing, design, architecture and more. It's not any different today -- to grow a brand you have to find what makes you extraordinary and illustrate that through appealing content.

    Tim Keelan, founder, StoryQuest

    As a member of the Illinois Technology Association and one who works out of one of the local incubators, I see Chicago has great having a potential role in the content marketing wave. Beyond the publishing, tech and agency resources Andy mentioned, we have more and more entrepreneurial resources coming online -- the new 1871 incubator, Motorola moving downtown, all this means more people, technology and enthusiasm is converging here. But Chicago is a great events town -- lets talk to Joe Pulizzi and get next years CMW world here! As content marketing goes mainstream, lets give it a larger platform.

    Jill Pollack, owner, Story Studio

    Chicago has always been a content marketing town: We just didn't know it. Now, the city that works is now the city that does its work with words. We're not flashy; we don't like to brag. But we're now home to some of the greatest writers and the smartest businesses. With that combination you get innovative, useful and successful content marketing.

    Kyle Akerman, digital marketing strategist and DJ, CHIRPradio.org

    Chicago has always been a great marketing town. But these days, content marketing goes well beyond writing blog posts or creating videos. Perhaps content marketing has not taken off here yet because we don’t fully understand the whole picture.

    As knowledgeable marketers we understand the need to create interesting, useful, and/or relevant content for a defined sales funnel. But we may not yet fully grasp the critical roles SEO, social media and web analytics also now play in the content marketing process. I believe there is a huge educational opportunity available to teach the principles of those topics to marketers in the Chicago area. 

    Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media Studios, a web design company here in Chicago. You can find Andy on and Twitter.