Post-Blogger and post-Tumblr, the humble corporate blog is the content-marketing strategy that keeps on giving. Like email newsletters and message boards, blogs harken back to the olden days of the Internet, when Netizens could post anything on their minds inside their preferred little patch of the online world. Similar to other always-on formats, there can be no end to the constant feed of content in a blog’s “endless scroll.”
For years, companies like IBM, Airbnb, GE, Slack, Google, and Salesforce have led the corporate blogging pack with well written and sometimes even inspired “brand journalism.” Here’s the basic idea: If you can’t get the few journalists still employed to write about your company, you can set up a newsroom to produce those stories yourself. Microsoft has set a high bar for this style of content with its Story Labs blog, which features beautifully designed, journalistic accounts of the people and issues behind Microsoft products.
The next generation of content marketing is what I’ll call magazine-style blogs. These aren’t the usual lead-gen clickbait or dull research found on run-of-the-mill corporate blogs. Even if articles have a subtle marketing message, this is thought leadership content that eschews the sharp elbows of a sales- or product-oriented pitch. The purpose is to inform, raise brand awareness, and engage potential and existing customers. The blogs feature short articles that can take the form of “how-to” and “why-to” articles, big-picture think pieces, opinion pieces, guest posts, short-form versions of longer reports, infographics, profiles, case studies, Q&As, and many other formats.
In short, magazine-style blogs focus on content for content’s sake. Their stories and layouts sometimes resemble business and tech magazines like Harvard Business Review, Wired, and Fast Company. The articles they publish may be ever so subtly advancing a company’s work, but more often than not they are simply enriching their readers’ lives with helpful and engaging content.
The following are four magazine-style blogs that this former magazine editor has come across in my content strategy work for major companies at the Insight Content Lab. I have found each one consistently helpful and enjoyable to read—and I hope you will too. Each offers a lesson for content marketers who want to stand out from the crowd.
Dropbox’s Work Culture magazine straddles the B2B and B2C worlds with news-you-can-use articles about the workplace and tech. The “Mind at Work” series features thought-provoking interviews with experts such as Daniel Levitin on the musical brain and Samin Nosrat on “cooking as thinking.” Some articles explore insights from Dropbox employees, but even an article about “How Work Became a Mess,” although supremely aligned with the company’s marketing positioning, contains nary a mention of Dropbox.
This magazine for CIOs and other business leaders comes from ServiceNow, a cloud-based software company focused on workflow management. Workflow’s business and tech journalists cover topics such as the customer experience, the employee experience, and IT and security issues, all in a clean, no-nonsense style. The articles leaven their research and insights with stories, without overly plugging ServiceNow’s own research. A quarterly print magazine wraps together the best articles in a clean layout. The story mix includes articles about breaking the gender gap in computer science, which only briefly mentions ServiceNow at the end. With the exception of a few interviews and op-eds from company execs, many articles make limited mention of ServiceNow. That makes the stories particularly credible.
The global design company works with companies around the world to use design thinking to foster a human-centered approach to innovation. I could spend hours reading IDEO’s blog articles, which ranged recently from how to construct a corporate purpose statement to 10 exercises to build creative confidence. The articles are deeply informed by IDEO’s corporate work, but they feel nonpromotional, like you’re at a party with cool, smart people who happen to be talking about what they do for a living. Bonus points for sections like “People + Things We Love” and “The Future of…” The article “We Built a Bot to Assign Parking Spots. And It Fought Back” was terrifically funny.
This blog comes from the makers of popular products that range from design tools like PhotoShop and InDesign to marketing software like Adobe Marketing Cloud. Articles are aimed at helping ”senior business leaders navigate digital transformation” and cover topics such as the customer experience, the future of work, and emerging technologies. The list-oriented headlines can feel a little BuzzFeedish, but the breezy and service-oriented content is filled with interesting infonuggets, company examples, and quotes from folks other than Adobe executives, which is refreshing.