If you were one of the many people compulsively checking Twitter for marketing trends, political updates, or any updates on the upcoming episode of The Bachelor this past Monday, it’s likely that you came across this Tweet (or one of the many responses to it):
That’s right—Quentin Hardy, deputy tech editor for the New York Times, has made a major shift to Google Cloud, where, as head of editorial, he’ll work to “demystify its cloud computing business for customers,” Talking Biz News reported. This comes after five years at The Times, and a previous journalistic career that encompasses time at The Wall Street Journal and Forbes.
What causes a person to take the leap of faith that comes with leaving one dream job for another? (And I guess I can only speculate that The Times was a dream job for Hardy, though he is quoted as expressing a similar sentiment: “I’m a third-generation journalist on both sides of my family, and The Times has always been the gold standard. . . . Coming here exceeded my high expectations, both in the brains and the dedication of all my colleagues.”)
The opportunities for an editor as smart and reputable as Hardy are, no doubt, endless, and the blood shared between his current and future roles is undeniable. But it’s safe to assume you’d never make a switch from a place like The New York Times just for a change of scenery. Like Emerson said, “Travel is a fool’s paradise.”
So why the change? The answer’s probably nuanced—but more likely than not, the stone in that soup would be the future.
As marketers, we’re always eyeballing the horizon, with one finger on the pulse of our industry through data and both thumbs frantically scrolling through the various social feeds on our phones. So if, when you saw it, this news didn’t catch your attention and speak (at an almost deafening volume) to augmentations you must make to your 2017 content strategy, consider this your second visit from the Ghost of Innovations Yet to Come. Here’s what Hardy’s move to Google Cloud says about the marketing trends of 2017.
By now, you know that influencer marketing—done right—is valuable. It’s just common sense: if people know and value a key figure in your content, they’ll want to pay attention. As Andy Crestodina put it: “How many people are waiting for your article to go live? Make sure it’s not zero.”
And, as you’ve likely experienced firsthand, proving influencer ROI can be a major challenge. That’s been proven time and time again, not only by the data, but also by recent marketing news. Take, for example, the recently formed partnership between social intelligent platform Synthesio and influencer marketplace Octoly—the goal of which is to “allow Synthesio customers to measure the impact of their influencer marketing campaigns among their other traditional, paid, owned, and earned social media efforts.” Major moves are taking place to prove the value of a good influencer strategy. Not the least of them, Google Cloud’s decision to hire Quentin Hardy.
Okay, it’s not influencer marketing in the most traditional sense. But look at it this way: Hardy is a renowned mind (read: influencer) in the tech news community. News of his new position sparked a massive response from fans of his who were sad to see him leave The Times, but excited to have his mind involved in simplifying the convoluted world of Google Cloud. And, as Dave Lee pointed out in his Tweet (originally found on Recode), Hardy’s move is proof of Google’s commitment to its customers. Not only will the company be forthright and honest, but it’s bringing journalistic integrity into the fold. You bet people will be waiting to read the content that comes out of Google Cloud. Those are big shoes to follow anyway—but doubly so if your brand hasn’t build out an influencer strategy beyond the occasional interview. Who’s speaking for your brand? Who trusts it so entirely that they’d put their own career behind it? 2017 is the time to start answering those tougher questions, and keeping close tabs on the data your influencer content generates.
Another key point Dave Lee’s Tweet highlights is Google’s dedication to artificial intelligence. If you’ve been following Google Cloud to any extent, you’ll immediately recognize the company’s growth in that area. As The Verge reported, Google made big moves to prioritize AI in its business processes back in winter of 2016, merging machine-learning-specific teams, enhancing the Cloud infrastructure, and “unifying its ‘cloud vision’ API so the same system will be able to identify logos, landmarks, labels, faces, and text for optical character recognition—making it simpler to implement,” among other actions.
Now, in 2017, it’s dedicating resources to something more than the technology behind AI. Seemingly, the company is looking to devote editorial brain to explaining its technology to consumers. For marketers, that should mean one thing above others: not just that AI is coming, or even that AI is here, but that it’s about to become part of the common vernacular and an expectation in terms of your team’s ability to learn, adapt, and personalize.
If for some reason you’re still not sold on AI’s imminence, look no further than Hardy himself. According to Recode, Hardy said, “I truly believe that what cloud represents is a dramatic transformation of business, economics and much else. It will take place over years, but the nexus of sensors/mobile computing, large cloud systems and AI will remake the world on a scale of electricity, automotive power, etc.”
In Jon Simmons’ interview with Noah Robischon, executive editor of Fast Company, it was made clear that brands need to be thinking like publishers—which means they need to be thinking like editors. As marketers, we’re reminded of this time and time again, especially in an age where credibility and quality are coming under immense scrutiny, with so many sources at risk of being labeled “fake news.” By hiring a proven editor with journalistic integrity, Google is reinforcing its commitment to delivering quality content to Cloud users (and those who just want to learn more).
Your brand doesn’t need to poach every editor from each trusted news source to prove credibility. But you do need to ensure you’re developing a content strategy that includes a strict set of guidelines that include equal parts SEO and editorial, paying attention to your sources, running your content through layers of editorial review, and finding the subject matter experts who can commit to telling the kinds of stories you’d want to read and share on social. For editors and writers alike, that means 2017 is as exciting a time for you as it is for brands and marketers—as long as you’re oriented toward quality and truth.
It remains to be seen how Hardy’s role with Google will manifest, but I’m excited to see where he takes Google Cloud’s content strategy in the year to come.
What are your thoughts on the transition? Share in the comments below.