At ad:tech SF, Arianna Huffington cited local, social and journalistic content as key to engagement.

During today's opening keynote at ad:tech San Francisco, Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, spoke to internet marketers about the transforming content marketing landscape and how to drive engagement. Huffington emphasized the value of journalistic content that reaches consumers, as well as locally conscious social media marketing.

Consumers are looking for local connections on the web, she said. This is an area where her sites have seen success, and this is why she is committed to – a developing news platform that lets consumers search for what's happening near them. Marketers might take this as their cue to develop high-quality content with local keywords so nearby potential customers can find them on the web.

Huffington also described the need to distribute information – particularly local information – via social channels. Brafton has reported on the continued intersection of local and social marketing – from rumored Groupon-style local deals emerging on Facebook to the rise of local updates on Twitter.

When it comes to deciding which type of content to produce, Huffington explained that mainstream media and digital media are converging. “Mainstream media is moving online, and digital is shifting toward reporting” and covering the pressing issues, she said.

She believes that journalistic content and online storytelling are what drive engagement online, and predicts this is the future of online media. With this in mind, marketers might consider custom news marketing in order to cover pressing industry issues related to their products and services while benefiting from journalistic writing. (Indeed, Brafton has reported that B2B marketers already turn to journalists for content marketing solutions, citing their ability to write high-quality articles “in a social way.”)

Huffington called for marketers to help bring in an era of “more truth, more transparency, more wisdom, more storytelling” and she believes practicing these ideals will result in “more engagement.”

She also said internet marketers must be willing to take risks and fail. Huffington shared that an early review of the Huffington Post called it an unsurvivable failure, but she forged on.

Speaking of Huffington criticisms, when one attendee asks about unpaid HuffPo bloggers, she explained that these writers have no commitment or deadlines. She says this is partially why AOL has invested in a full-time newsroom. While she advocates practicing content aggregation as a way to bring as many perspectives as possible to a site, she seems to suggest that this should be paired with having committed writers produce branded content.

With Huffington's insight on engagement in mind, marketers should also consider that original, branded content drives sales. As Brafton has reported, 61 percent of consumers feel better about brands with original content and, in turn, they're more likely to make purchases with these businesses.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.