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Video Killed the Radio Star, but did Content Creators Kill the Copywriters?


Man, it sure is confusing out there. A recent Indeed search for copywriter without any location specified, yielded 4,583 jobs. Content Creator yielded 4,448 and there were 4,423 jobs for Content Writers out there. So do the narrow margins tell us that these titles basically the same thing, just packaged a bit differently? Well, yes and no.



Ask any Vans-loving, purple-dipped-hair-wearing, Taco Bell-chowing 20-something and they might tell you that copywriters are two-legged anachronisms from their parents’ generation. Now, it’s all about creating content that wows in the digital realm. But wait. Isn’t copywriting part of content development? Aren’t words being thrown down to capture the attention and evoke the emotions of thumb-happy scrollers? Copy is copy is copy...right?


The song referenced in the title above (or H1) was born during the death of disco period in the late seventies. Many viewed it as a nod toward the transition of everyday digital media. In the '60s, entertainment consumers slowly transitioned from radio to video as televisions became cheaper and more readily available. Suddenly, there was a shift away from audio-only entertainment, welcoming a more satisfying, immersive experience. Families were turning on their TVs instead of counting on radio broadcasts for news and storytelling. This trend signaled the dawn of an apparent pivot. Watching and listening was more satisfying than just listening in a more passive sense.



The lyrics "Video Killed the Radio Star" are meant to be taken in a very poetic, yet literal sense. The rise of TV-watching sort of "killed" the radio industry as a whole. The video for the song by The Buggles was the first video ever to air on MTV. If you’re a trivia buff, you should know that “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar was number two (Wikipedia).

When there’s a paradigm shift in medium consumption, you can feel the excitement. Remember how you felt when YouTube was a shinny new object? It’s exciting as technology spreads through neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, street by street and inevitably becomes the norm in each home. Conversely, you probably didn’t notice the shift in title changes unless you were spending time on Indeed. Slowly, the title of copywriter waned and content creator began showing up on searches. The rationale behind this title shift was obviously new media. As the digital age bloomed, traditional ad agencies began posting less jobs for copywriters and more jobs for content creators in an effort to keep up with creative shops that seized the digital marketing shift. In the last five years, many small and large digital-first marketing agencies cropped up and large agencies had to keep up. Big accounts moved their dollars from traditional ad spend towards digital ad spend as consumers spent less time in front of the TV and more time with their smart phones. Universities began to offer undergrad and master’s degrees in Digital Marketing. These were accreditations that you could fetch in-person or online. It was so fantastically meta that digital degrees were offered online! Certifications grew in popularity too. Companies began looking for candidates who were proficient in Google Ads Display Certification, Google Ads Search Certification, Google Ads measurement Certification, Shopping Ads certification — Geez, did it matter that you were once a copywriter who won Cleos and Addys out the wahoo for headlines, taglines and concepts? Things have changed—not entirely—but they have changed. There is still a place for the brilliant copywriter on Madison Avenue, but honestly, is Madison Avenue even Madison Avenue anymore with the popularity and here-to-stay WFH culture? The copywriter isn't dead just as print isn't dead.


 

There are some unanimous differences between content creators and copywriters that are pretty apparent to most who have written on this topic.

Copywriters write text that’s used in promotional material and marketing. They have perfected the skill of drafting terse copy for any vertical for the main purpose of reaching potential clients and/or customers.

Copywriters have moved from slogan spin masters to blog writers or website writers. They write to cajole, persuade and ultimately to make readers take some sort of an action. In essence, copywriters were the original influencers before influencers became influencers. So what’s the bottomline? Copywriting is any writing that’s created for marketing or selling purposes. Content writing or content creating is typically about developing rapport or trust with consumers through compelling engagement.

Someone once explained it to me this way.

Copywriters: The Nike Air Force 1 - Buy the Swoosh’s most popular sneakers in history today (Copywriters must garner attention quickly. Each word counts.)

Content Creators: Who loves running? Come along with me as I go sneaker shopping and then take my new kicks on a test drive. Buckle up, we’re shoppin’ cause they’re droppin’. There’s no stoppin’ me. #run

 

Content creators cultivate communities or groups of people who are into the same thing. It’s about sparking an sustaining emotional connections and telling stories of successes and failures—sharing moments of vulnerability and joy and talking about things that don’t feel like a hard push into the purchase funnel. Content is information and entertainment that businesses deploy into the universe to attract potential customers and clients but it’s not about the hard sell. Still feeling a bit like whhhaaaa? I get it.

Many people feel that copy is merely text on a page. That’s it. Content can be copy however it can also be much more like videos, gifs, animations, photos, illustrations, quizzes, memes, games and much more. Think articles, podcasts, social posts, newsletters sent via Constant Contact, MailChimp or another e-client. Content revolves around the art of storytelling. Great content writing involves solving a problem, providing value of some sort that triggers a sense of now-you-know satisfaction. It's stuff that stirs you. According to forgeandsmith.com, a website design company out of Vancouver, BC “some common examples of copywriting are: PPC ads, Social media ads (really all ads), landing pages for ads, Call to Action buttons on a site, product or service page copy, emails that are more sales oriented, website forms, video scripts, headlines, website navigation menus, pop-up messages, chatbot scripts and more.”


 


So small business owners here’s the $25,000 question. Are you looking to sell a product, service or sell out an event or are you looking to gain followers, fans and build a loyal audience? The answer will help you determine what sort of writer you need. Still not sure if you need a copywriter, a content writer, content creator or maybe just a glass of wine? Contact me! Let’s talk! I can help you determine the best route based on your business goals and budget! No matter what, you’ll need juicy content to harness the attention of your target audience(s).

Oh, and remember, people still listen to radio. They may be called podcasts now (much in the same way that vegetarian food is now called plant-based), but radio is still there, if you listen carefully. — Jami Slotnick




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Each week, I'll bring you information about content creation as it pertains to various mediums. I welcome guest bloggers and ideas for future posts. This is really a collaborative area where feedback