Connecting Storytellers with Stories to be Told

Tech journalist Shane Snow introduces you to Contently, the company he co-founded with the intention of connecting brands with freelancers.

Shane Snow: Contently is a technology company that helps companies solve content, from planning content to creating content to managing it to building audiences with it. We work with a lot of big brands like Coca-Cola, American Express to help them reach people and build relationships through telling stories rather than just advertisements. And the idea came about about five years ago. I was a journalist writing about technology for Wired magazine and Fast Company and some other places and I was working as a freelancer and all of my friends who had gone to school with me also were working as freelancers and not by choice; it was because the job market economy was really bad and if you were a creative person in the late 2000s, you were starting to be treated as a variable cost by your employers, by publishers; whether you were a photographer or an artist or a writer, that was happening. So you'd be laid off and then hired back as a contractor or freelancer.

So I was interested in the set of problems that goes along with that. If you're a freelance journalist, you have a lot of training, you might be great at telling stories, but bad at drumming up business or bad at managing your business or getting clients to pay you on time. So I was interested in those problems. Meanwhile a friend of mine, who had grown I had grown up with, who was a successful startup founder — he was looking at the other side of that market, which was a growing number of companies that wanted to hire journalists and storytellers to do content marketing.

So typically we think of media companies and publishers as CNN or The New York Times, but this was big brands that wanted to do the same thing and connect with people on social media or on blogs. It was very hard to find good, quality talent. And so Joe, my soon-to-be business partner, came to me and said, "Where do I find people with your training?" I said, "Well, they all have these problems." So we came together and said why don't we build a business out of connecting laid-off journalists or journalists from good journalism schools with brands that want to be publishers. That was the kernel of what started as Contently and that turned into a software company, where we realized that big companies need more than just talent in order to tell stories, in order to solve content across all of their divisions. So we started building tools for product project management, for measuring contest, for figuring out your cost return and the effectiveness of the content and how to engage people and optimize all that. So we took this thing that was originally connect talent and turn it into a software platform that talent was still a part of that, but the business is about helping companies solve content. So we've been on quite a journey over the last five years.

Tech journalist Shane Snow introduces you to Contently, the company he co-founded with the intention of connecting brands with freelancers. As Contently began to take shape, Snow and his business partner realized that they had stumbled upon an opportunity to create systems and software dedicated to content management.

Snow is author of the book Smartcuts.

The Visionaries series is brought to you by Big Think in collaboration with Founder Collective. In it, we profile remarkable entrepreneurs and the ideas and practices that make them great.

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