NEW YORK: Marketers must start thinking more like journalists, and put a "content mindset" ahead of traditional strategies, a leading industry executive has argued.

Steve Rubel, chief content officer at PR firm Edelman, dismissed the debates surrounding the nature and definition of content marketing and native advertising.

"All of this is simply advertising," he told Digiday. "What's new now is that more and more of it must closely resemble editorial and that it is positioned as just as important."

Achieving that, he suggested, would require a "content mindset" to be adopted by marketers, although he conceded this might take some time.

"Most marketers wrap content inside a marketing message," he said. "Good journalists do the opposite. We need to think like them, with the reader's needs ahead of our own in the creative process."

He accepted the logical consequence of this approach – that "publishers could become a significant threat to the ad agencies through their content studios".

"Although that's not their intention, the press will invariably disintermediate agencies as they are forced to adapt to a new economic reality," he stated.

Organisations such as his own would be well-placed to benefit, however, as he noted that, at its best, PR "serves as a strong intermediary that generates good outcomes for the brand, the media and, above all, the reader/viewer".

But he cautioned that in the rush from banner ads to content, the end-users were in danger of being left behind. "No-one is checking with the reader," he said, as he called on trade associations to set standards that advocate for them.

He remained hopeful that the right model would be found, adding that, "the optimistic case is that advertisers get increased awareness and engagement. The media gets to continue to sustain journalism. Readers continue to get journalistic content and, if done well, value-added advertiser content as well that's more interesting than banners", he added.

Data sourced from Digiday: additional content by Warc staff