The History of Content Writing and Content Marketing

Written by: Jason Bayless | April 16, 2018

“Business owners and brand managers in 2018 are constantly reminded about the importance of producing content as part of their digital marketing and advertising efforts. Although podcasts and vertical video are considered to be among the most attractive types of digital content currently in use by online marketers, the fundamental combination of written articles and images continues to be very effective.

In the mid-1990s, marketing professionals started using the term ” written content” to describe promotional efforts designed to take advantage of search engine optimization, which back then was a nascent field. While textual keywords have evolved into semantic SEO, written content continues to be a very strong foundation for digital marketing.

Content Writing in Ancient Times

We know that written content is often created to call attention to other content. Individuals who visit the website of sporting goods giant Wilson, for example, are encouraged to sign up to receive updates and offers from the company via email; since Wilson is a major tennis brand, subscribers can expect to get news about major tournaments, advice about workout routines and playing techniques, gossip about famous players such as Serena Williams, and other content of interest to tennis fans.

One of the earliest uses of content written with the intention of highlighting other content took place when Julius Caesar ruled the Roman Republic. Around 60 B.C., Caesar ordered that the Acta Diurna, a daily gazette, should be made public beyond the confines of the Senate. Initially, the Acta Diurna featured official information such as court pronouncements, agricultural prices and military victories; eventually, a decision was made to spice things up with tidbits such as dates of festivals, gladiatorial events, deaths, personality profiles, and even gossip about relationships. The intention behind this content was to keep drawing readers to the public forums where the Acta was posted.

Newsletters and Newspapers

The practice of producing content for the specific purpose of targeting audiences with marketing and advertising strategies dates back to the 16th century. German families that controlled banking and mercantile operations published commercial newsletters that informed the public about the services they offered; moreover, current events in various industry sectors were also reported.

Commercial newsletters published by the powerful Fugger and Welser of Germany families actually predated and eventually inspired, publications such as the Relation of Strasbourg, the first newspaper published in Europe. By 1618, the weekly Courante of Amsterdam emerged as the first modern newspaper.

Historical Publications Featuring Written Content

The Poor Richard’s Almanack published by Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century was filled with interesting content that he wrote specifically to call attention to his various business ventures. A century later, farm equipment manufacturer John Deere published the first issue of The Furrow, a magazine that continues to be in circulation to this very day.

In the 1970s, Kellogg’s applied to content marketing to cereal boxes. During the 1980s, video game developers such as Infocom and Activision published innovative newsletters that were extremely effective in terms of promoting new products and building brand loyalty. The content writing produced for these newsletters was smart, incisive, witty, and engaging; it set the standard for the digital information age.

In the early days of the World Wide Web, the website of Japanese automaker Toyota featured lifestyle articles that were not entirely focused on automobiles; this was a brand that took chances on publishing articles about poker playing tips, roadside restaurant reviews, recipes from taco trucks, and traveling to remote beaches.

Content Writing These Days

Major brands such as Red Bull invest heavily in digital content production; however, the Red Bulletin magazine continues to be published with a circulation of more than two million. White papers, e-books and blog posts are still considered to be effective in terms of SEO, and many daily newspapers either feature or report on marketing content when it is interesting and engaging.”