The U.S. commercial printing industry generates around $90 billion in annual revenue. That’s a huge pie to split, and one of the primary ways printers are grappling for their share is through content marketing. That means web content and blogs for SEO and white papers, sell sheets, and other downloadable content to use as incentives. But printers aren’t writers, so coming up with content can be a challenge. Where do you find it?

Here are four sources of content that printers can use to fill their empty pages, along with some pros and cons of each.

1. Third-party content providers that specialize in the printing industry.

Different companies offer different packages of content. Typically, packages include a print newsletter, blog posts, and emails. Great Reach Communications, for example, offers multiple packages that include direct mail (newsletters, postcards), blogs, emails, and social media. Content is written by an industry professional, and in all cases, is specific to the printing industry. Topics stay current with industry trends, including data quality, ZIP code targeting, and print embellishments. Other providers tend to offer more general content of relevance to the printing industry, such as marketing and design tips and general business topics.

Each provider has its own mix. The level of expertise varies, as well. Some content is written by industry experts. Other content is written by generalists.

If you’re looking to position yourself as an industry expert, ask about the qualifications of the content writer and make sure to ask for samples.

2. Purchase pre-written content from a content aggregator.

An increasing number of companies are popping up that offer pre-written content of varying quality. One example is Constant Content, which has been around since 2004. The company provides reliably consistent, content, but you will be challenged to find a lot of copy that is specific to the printing industry. Topics will be more general, such tips on email marketing or choosing environmentally friendly paper. This option is cost effective (you generally pay by the word) and will provide useful and interesting content for your customers and prospects. In most cases, however, it won’t establish you as a printing industry expert.

3. Hire a freelancer.

As with content providers, you have a range of freelance options. You can hire a content developer from the printing industry who will write content to your specifications. This person can serve as an extension of your marketing department, writing content that is not only industry specific but that is unique to you. You will pay higher rates, but you will get exclusive, high-quality content to which you own the copyright and can use without restriction.

If you don’t have the budget to hire an industry expert, you can contract freelancers through companies like Upwork or Scripted. These writers will generally work for a fraction of the cost of a seasoned industry professional, but they generally do not have industry expertise, either. The quality can also vary widely.

You can, however, find talented writers on these sites who are willing to learn—if you have the time to train them.

4. Use artificial intelligence.

Increasingly, we are hearing about the use of AI to write content. Input a few sentences into an AI engine such as Jasper, hit “compose,” and out pops an article as if it were written by a professional (not really). AI is an amazing tool, but there is a learning curve to using it well, and it doesn’t do well with technical and industry-specific topics.

Where does AI work best? For general marketing content such as using color psychology in your designs or the differences between different types of recycled paper. You can input details for more technical content, such as “popular die-cut techniques” or “five different types of print coatings.” The output often sounds expert on the surface, but once you dig in, can contain significant errors that require an industry expert to identify and correct. 

AI is a great option if you have someone on staff who can learn the program, then has the time and expertise to fact-check and revise the content before publication. Used properly, AI can save time and help you generate large volumes of content quickly, but it requires a high level of industry and writing expertise to ensure that the tool is useful for the purpose for which it is intended. Not having that expertise in-house is often why you outsource content in the first place.

Content Development Option Pros and Cons

Pre-written industry content:

Pros: Cost-effective, high-quality content designed for the printing industry that, in many cases, readers will recognize as authoritative.

Cons: Level of print-specificity may vary from program to program. Content may be exclusive within a specific geographic radius but is not unique to you. 

Pre-written content from an aggregator:

Pros: Inexpensive.

Cons: Content is not exclusive, and the level of print industry relevance can vary. Good primarily for business and marketing content. 

Hired industry freelancer:

Pros: Exclusive content that positions you as an industry expert.

Cons: More costly.

Hired non-industry freelancer:

Pros: Inexpensive

Cons: Generalist content with limited industry expertise.

Artificial Intelligence:

Pros: Inexpensive.

Cons:  Does not work easily with technical and industry-specific requests. Requires industry expertise to review content and ensure accuracy. Reads well but lacks the personality and depth that comes from a human writer.

Have questions or want to offer your own experience with any of these options? Post them in the comments!