We started taking content from companies. They basically have brand newsrooms, and I remember talking to a guy who is the head of the Credit.com content team, and he was like, “I love my job. I started looking up content jobs, and I began with Monster. I feel like content is a great way we can do that. The second thing was bring all these creators together under one team. Then somebody who is coming in to write for us can be like, “Oh, that’s the Monster voice. I get it now.” It seems like you’ve hired a lot of people with journalism backgrounds for your team. We—by which I mean probably people like you and me—have to do more to push content up in companies. It’s a very mid-management kind of job right now, and it’s hard to get things done. Besides all the stuff I said before, people are just beginning to feel like they need to produce some ROI.
In the past half-decade, dozens of notable journalists have
transitioned into content marketing roles. The most notable of all
was former Forbes and Newsweek editor Dan Lyons, whose disastrous
experience at HubSpot became a hilarious and tragic
best-seller. But aside from the occasional tragedy, these
career switches have actually turned out pretty well. Look at how
Tomas Kellner left Forbes to
change the way people think about GE, or how Zak Stone
turned Dollar Shave Club into one of the most intellectually
curious publishers on the web.
Over the last year, another journalist has made waves in content
marketing: Margaret Magnarelli, the former executive editor of
Money magazine who now runs the content program at Monster.com. At Content Marketing World,
Magnarelli was a finalist for content marketer of the year, and
Monster.com took home the honor
content marketing program.
When I met Magnarelli at Content Marketing World, I soon
realized that the honors were well-deserved. She’s one of the
sharpest people in the industry. Since she joined Monster, the
blog has grown 22 percent to 33 million monthly unique visitors
and job searches from content pages have increased 20 percent to
470,000. Monster’s content is so good that the company even
syndicates stories to Fortune, Fast Company, and Mic.
Last month, we caught up in New York and I learned why she
decided to leave the journalism world, how she broke down silos,
and what she did to transform Monster’s content program.
Why’d you decide to come over to Monster from Money? What
attracted you to the content marketing space?
It started for me in 2013. Money was separating from CNN Money
in the Time Warner spinoff. We had to launch a website on our own
in a very crowded space. We flipped the switch on June 1, 2014, and
the traffic didn’t just show up. There’s a shift in how people are
consuming content today, and people aren’t going natively to a
homepage to get content. They’re finding it in their feeds. They’re
finding it through influencers. They’re finding it through search.
It made me realize that you really have to hustle if you want to be
successful in content. We hustled in very scrappy ways, and the
site became successful.
At the time, I think the CEO of Time said he was going to take
the wall between church and state, and bulldoze that wall. It
struck me that the sanctity of this is gone, right? There’s a lot
of struggle to produce content. A lot of places are having layoffs
and reducing staff sizes. There are other pressures that come from
advertisers as well, to produce certain kinds of content. It felt
like I could choose who I wanted to affiliate myself with versus
having it chosen for me.
We started taking content from companies. I talked to some of
these people like NerdWallet and Credit.com. They basically have
brand newsrooms, and I remember talking to a guy who is the head of
the Credit.com content team, and he was like, “I love my job. I
have so much freedom. I can make the kind of content I want. I have
resources. I have a great team.”
He had a sense of freedom, and I was like, “Oh, my god, I want
What attracted you to Monster?
I started looking up content jobs, and I began with Monster. I
want to work at a place that has a greater meaning. Money did that
for me. It was about helping people take control of their finances
and feel confident in something very abstract. The job search
process is very much the same. All of my history in content
creation is in service journalism, and I saw a ton of opportunity
to do the same thing for Monster.
When Monster launched in the ’90s, it was the only player in the
space. Now there’s been obstruction, so we have a real imperative
to get millennials and Gen Z to know Monster. I feel like content
is a great way we can do that.
Obviously, it’s a for-profit company, but there’s a greater
meaning that I really felt aligned with. What am I selling to
somebody? I’m selling the promise of a better life and a happier
life, especially since 80 percent of your life is spent at work. I
really like all that. I also saw that, in its infancy, it probably
was one of the first companies that really paid attention to
How did you kick things off, both from a strategy perspective
and building your team?
The first thing I did was go around to every person I thought
could possibly touch content in any way and say, “What do you think
I should do, and how can I help you do your job?” That really
helped me understand a lot of things that I didn’t understand
coming from journalism—how I could work with these people and if I
could align my KPIs with their KPIs.
The second thing was bring all these creators together under one
team. At the time, there were three editors. There wasn’t a
distinct brand voice or a distinct strategy. It wasn’t connected
that well with our social, PR, and SEO teams. So it was about
bringing the team together as a functional unit.
The strategy is what I told…