At the Council of PR Firm’s Critical Issues Forum last week a panel led by Ogilvy CEO Chris Graves shined a critical light on the industry’s “content frenzy.” Even native advertising advocate Raju Narisetti, SVP of strategy at News Corp, noted Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker recently referred to the revenue generator as a “Faustian pact.”

But the most scathing criticism came from Webbmedia Group’s founder/CEO Amy Webb and critical_issues_v4-web-2Buzzmachine blogger Jeff Jarvis.

“Content is a shitty business,” Jarvis warned. “PR is public relations, it should be focused on relationships -- not following [media] over the cliff.”

Webb argued content is being “defined too narrowly” and emerging technologies, like anticipatory computing, are being overlooked in favor of conventional text-heavy content.

“There’s a glut of content out there - but there’s limited time and a limited appetite,” Webb said. She added, native advertising has come under fire from the Federal Trade Commission that is meeting on the topic on December 4. “My thought is they are only concerned with content because it’s buzzy - but they don’t really understand the context.”

Meanwhile, Forbes’ chief product officer Lewis Dvorkin maintained that content’s biggest problem is its expense, but Forbes has figured out a way to curtail expenses by opening the platform to new voices.

Even so, agencies like the venture-backed Contently seem to be gaining market share. Already, Contently has 25 employes since launching in 2010. Rather than housing a bevy of content creators on its payroll, according to its VP of content Sam Slaughter, Contently considers itself a platform company that has developed a way to connect vetted content creators with brands. Its client list now includes brands, media partners and even PR agencies, among them: Forbes, Weber Shandwick, Edelman and Coca-Cola.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 9.23.09 PMIn another example, today former Bite GM Will Willis announced his own content strategy shop, the Willis Collaborative, after leaving a six-month stint as EVP of Ogilvy PR’s brand marketing practice. The new venture’s “adaptive content strategy” is designed to be agnostic between social, media and earned channels, as well as tap into marketing technology to track the effectiveness and traction of the content. So far, Willis is working with Dell World, the company's customer conference in Austin that's being held in December, along with a handful of other clients.

The ultimate pay-off for content is still being figured out. But Jarvis summed up its next test during the Critical Issues panel -- and that's for marketers to realize “content is not the end, it’s just a tool.”