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The art of storytelling in the age of content marketing

Tom Kaneshige | June 16, 2015
The road to Contently Summit is lined with the homeless who live in the shadow of City Hall's towering dome. Along Market Street, the sour stench of urine and feces and unwashed bodies closes in. I turn west on Mission Street making sure to avoid eye contact with the forsaken outliers cursing at the world. Two giant, yellow construction cranes stain the skyline, and I feel a sense of dread at tech gentrification's Second Coming. Skirting iron-barred liquor stores and smoke shops, I finally arrive at Contently Summit, which I recognize by the "private party" sign out front. It is like an island resort serving free drinks and selling timeshares in the midst of a polluted, roiling sea of poverty.

Is that journalism or just a brilliant disguise?

Let's face it, companies acting as publishers are trying to fool readers with ambiguous blogs and native advertising masquerading as journalism. While I'm glad journalism skills are valued at marketing departments, and colleagues who had been laid off are finding gainful employment, it's more than a little sad to see once-crusading truth seekers participating in this facade.

Then Allie Townsend, managing editor of Facebook's communications department and former social media editor at Time Magazine, shows a video of a man with a camera talking to people on the street. For a moment, I feel the warmth of truth about to wash over me. But this man is telling emotionally uplifting stories; "It's not about negative stories from a content marketing perspective," Townsend reminds me.

And I realize these aren't the stories on Mission Street.


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