In the new era of digital media, everyone’s a publisher — celebrities, nobodies, spy agencies, house plants and, especially, brands. Building “the plumbing” for brands that want to be part of this new era, and a market for writers who need to make a living in it, was the goal Contently started with in 2010.

But while brands may be on a level playing field with The New York Times and CNN now, and while the content they produce may take up more and more of audiences’ attention henceforth, they’ll never be a true substitute for traditional media outlets. (Neither will the CIA or a plant, for that matter.) That’s because they’ll never produce the kind of content that’s costly to produce and yields no tangible benefit beyond advancing the public good.

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