I love Contently as a brand. They’ve been on the content marketing scene early doing really smart stuff. Not only do they have great content themselves with an industry-leading blog, but they also host cool events for content marketers. I had the privilege of attending one in San Francisco where Facebook talked about their content marketing strategy and we all went home with content marketing swag. I even hired Contently as a platform years ago for two different brands I’ve worked for as the Head of Content.
But, I do have a little secret. I’ve always thought it was a bit ridiculous that brands actually pay Contently’s high prices. And now, it’s not a platform I’d recommend to my First Page clients. Hear me out.
Contently is a content production tool. By signing up, you will have access to their entire suite, which provides you a strategy for your content, a platform to manage it (including a content calendar and process flow) and writers/editors to develop your content for you. Sounds great, right? Sure. But, it’s wildly expensive. Pricing can range anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 a month. It’s my opinion that businesses are far better off hiring an internal Content Manager to help set their strategy, and contract freelancers to write the content or even hire a fulltime internal writer.
Now that I’ve had my hands in the game for a number of years and have built out a few brands content marketing, I’ve realized there are better and less expensive solutions to manage the content production process. Below are a few reasons why I don’t think Contently is a smart content marketing platform for businesses…
Contently is Overpriced
With the steep prices Contently charges per month, you’ll get much more bang for your buck by taking that fee and using it on a less expensive content platform and a freelance budget. And depending on your organization's content needs, you’ll probably spend less or be able to allocate that extra budget to line items such as a Facebook ad budget to get more eyeballs on your content, another important piece of a content marketing budget.
I think it’s much more efficient use of an organic marketing budget to find an affordable content production platform and hire freelancers. Imagine how far your content budget would go if you spent their platform fee on additional content pieces every month that would gain more keywords, traffic and backlinks for your brand. At my last in-house job, we used Trello to manage content production, which was FREE. And now at First Page, we use GatherContent, which I highly recommend. GatherContent starts at $79 per month, or $790 per year and contains a lot of the same features and benefits of Contently.
Also, Contently pays a premium price to their freelancers, which ultimately means brands pay a premium price for the content. So, while it’s great to freelance for them, their price-per-content piece is two-to-three times more expensive than industry standards. I will say, Contently does a great job of sourcing journalists and high-quality writers. However, this could easily be achieved with some manual work by an internal content manager. I’ve been able to source quality writers and pay their requested prices, which are quite a bit less than Contently’s price per piece. Therefore, if you take the content budget you’re spending at Contently and apply it to the general freelance marketing, you'll likely get 2-3x more piece of content a month for the same price.
Content Freelance Resources
There are plenty of resources out there to help you find good content freelancers. Try checking out Upwork, CloudPeeps or Fiverr. You can also scour the websites in your industry who produce great content, and reach out to some of their byline writers. These are some of the ways we source good, niche freelancers at First Page.
A few suggestions to look for when hiring content freelancers:
Expertise is not necessarily a must-have, but it’s certainly a nice-to-have. If you can, you’ll want to find a writer with subject matter expertise in your industry to pick it up and run with it.
Research skills are also great, especially if you’re unable to find someone with knowledge of your industry. They need to be able to distinguish between good sources and less-than-reputable ones.
I always look for someone who has a journalism background. They’ll be comfortable with AP Style Guides and know how to conduct interviews and piece together high quality articles with proper structure.
Adaptability in a writer makes them easier to work with. The ability to fit your brand’s identity (tone, writing style, etc.), is necessary.
And finally, the more experience the writer has, the better. For example, grammar, word choice, overall flow and readability shows how much experience the writer has. Be sure to ask for examples of content they’ve written that are featured on a live website.
Finally, here’s my industry insider tip for you… you can search Contently’s freelancer writer network and portfolios without being a Contently customer. Shhhh, don’t tell. Here’s how you do it… go to Google and type this into the search bar:
site: contently.com stories by
A list of Contently portfolios should come up and browse away for a good freelancer you might want to reach out to and hire!
Minimal Editing of Content
Another reason why I would not suggest Contently as a content platform for businesses is that, from my experience when I hired them at a previous company and when I’ve written for brands as a Contently freelancer, there was pretty minimal editing of the content produced.
Each Contently customer is assigned a dedicated Editor, which is a great idea in theory. But in practice, I found the editor only conducted light editing and didn’t push for deep edits, restructure the content, or dedicate the time needed to get the content to a REALLY good place. I also didn’t feel like the Contently editors fully understood our brand, values, mission, and style guide. When an Editor doesn’t understand these important aspects of a brand, they miss the opportunity to make your article more creative, coherent and unique to the brand. And you end up spending all the time you thought you’d be saving by having a full-time editor on staff for you, double editing everything.
Lack of Personal Connection
Finally, I feel that there is a real lack of personal connection between the entire Contently team you work with — from the editor to the freelancers. It takes a village to create unique, award-winning content in the environment we have today with every single brand posting nearly daily. And personally, I like to feel connected to open dialogue and mind-melding brainstorms on strategy with my content teammates. I also strongly believe that an editor and writers need to be bought-in and integrated fully into a content team, even if they’re freelance. They should feel like an integrated part of your content team. The freelancers I work with suggest content ideas or ways to improve for my clients, and they regularly request content analytics because they’re invested and wanted to know how their content is performing.
I think because of the sheer scale or the idea that you didn’t personally hire these people, leaves to a feeling of remoteness with the Contently editor and writers. Do they work for Contently, do they work for your client, or are they simply writing what they need to collect their fee per content piece? If you’re looking for a freelance writer to become an extension of your team, Contently would not be the resource that’s best for your business.
While Contently may not be the right avenue for startups and small businesses, large enterprise brands could benefit from this platform. And it seems that Contently might have figured out that’s where their own niche is best since their website tagline has evolved now to say, “Contently is the only unified content marketing solution for the world's best enterprise brands.”
Using Contently’s platform wouldn’t require a larger business to hire internal teams and really allow them to be hands-off in regards to their content process. As a startup or small business, you’re better off sticking to less expensive content production platforms like GatherContent and invest your money to produce great content through a consistent freelance source or internal hire.