I’ve been a publisher for 13 years now. Today, I spend my time teaching brands how to become publishers.
I love publishing and have a number of close friends who now run mini-publishing empires in industries that range from mechanical systems to design engineering to convenience stores.
In this post, I’m going to share with you secrets that my publishing friends just don’t want you, the non-media company, to hear. Don’t get me wrong… you’d learn about these publishing tips at some point… but even using a few of the points below may send a shudder down the spine of the leading trade media company in your industry.
I believe each one of these tips are game changers for your content marketing program.
They will never be as fast or as strong as you
I’ve seen an agent punch through a concrete wall; men have emptied entire clips at them and hit nothing but air; yet, their strength, and their speed, are still based in a world that is built on rules. Because of that, they will never be as strong, or as fast, as *you* can be.” — Morpheus, “The Matrix” (1999)
According to “Advertising Age,” Procter & Gamble was the largest spender on advertising in 2011, at a clip of $5 billion dollars. Just for perspective, The New York Times Company, which includes “The New York Times” and “The Boston Globe,” did $2 billion in total revenue in 2012. That means P&G, all by itself, spent two and a half times more on advertising (just advertising) than The New York Times Company collects in a year. To further the point, as of February 2013, Apple had $137 billion in cash sitting in the bank. Apple could buy The New York Times and it would still have enough cash to do, well, pretty much whatever it wants.
The point is this: No matter how tight you believe your marketing budgets are, most media companies do not have the money or resources that you have. For the past decade, the majority of media companies have cut out their research departments entirely. Their best journalists and storytellers have moved (or are moving) to the brand side (for example, General Electric just hired a Forbes editor to run its GE Experts program). The rules of publishing that made it possible for media companies to gain power are, simply put, vanishing.
No technology barriers
Publishing used to be very exclusive, highly intensive and costly. This is not the case anymore.
If you’ve been following the feud between a New York Times reporter/reviewer and Tesla Motors, you’d clearly see that Tesla Motors (the brand) is now on equal footing with the media company. Dan Frommer, Founder of City Notes and SplatF, says:
Even a few years ago, something like this probably would have required finding a rival newspaper — the “Wall Street Journal,” perhaps — to collaborate on a takedown. Or maybe an expensive full-page ad campaign in the top five papers, which would have looked defensive and seemed less convincing. But now that every smart company has a regularly updated blog… brands can speak for themselves very powerfully.
One audience, not two
There are two types of customers that exist in our world and must be satisfied: the audience of one and the advertiser. Without either of these two, we’re sunk before we leave port.” — Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni
Publishers have two audiences: the advertiser and the reader. All publishers will say that if you satisfy the reader, ultimately the advertiser will be happy. But the truth is, advertisers pay the bills and, often, publishers do what they believe is right to get cash in the door. (Just ask “The Atlantic” about that.)
Yes, even though many publishers drive revenues directly from the readers, most media companies rely on advertising and sponsorship. They have two masters — the reader and the money guy — and sometimes (and becoming more frequent) the content suffers.
Real journalism needs funding, and the business model of publishing is hurting.
Tom Foremski, a technology reporter for ZDNet, believes that content marketing [corporate media] could be the answer to the funding problems of real journalism. Mr. Foremski contends that special interests have so much money and are so influential, the gatekeepers traditionally involved in media and the creation of “real” journalism are all but gone.
In particular, Mr. Foremski highlights the recent takeover attempt of Australia’s Fairfax Media:
Take a look at Australia where multibillionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart has been trying to acquire Fairfax Media, publisher of top newspapers, in a bid to counter anti-mining forces. We’ll see more of that as newspapers and other traditional media continue to weaken.
The brand, on the other hand, doesn’t have to deal with two audiences. Your readership and your cash funding source are one and the same. If you supply amazing, epic content for your readers consistently over time, they tend to reward you with new or repeat business.
Seven ways to take the media world by storm
None of this is rocket science, but combined together, the following seven tips will create a powerful concoction that will be hard for any company, including media companies and your direct competitors, to compete with.
1. Mobile first: Remember when eBay was the online auctions king? Well, today, online auctions are just 10 percent of its total business — its payment and mobile business is half the company. eBay is betting its entire future on mobile, and it’s winning. And heck, right now, 32 percent of “Wall Street Journal” traffic comes from a mobile device (60:40 phone to tablet).
Most media companies either have legacy systems in print or (I can’t believe I’m saying this) digital. Yes, digital, as in desktop publishing, is becoming a legacy system. Responsive design has helped, but this is a band-aid, in my opinion. You need to plan, right now, for the inevitability that the majority of the traffic to your content marketing will come from a mobile device in two years. This means thinking mobile first as part of your channel strategy.
Because of how media companies are built and the content processes and staffing they have in place, you can move faster to a mobile first strategy than they can. Start this today.
2. Cherry picking: Companies like GE, Avaya, Monetate, and more have all filled key marketing positions with journalists and editors at media companies. This is now the rule and not the exception. Why shouldn’t you do the same?
3. The 20-to-1 model: Todd Wheatland, Head of Global Marketing at Kelly Services, doesn’t create content every day, but when they have a story to tell, they maximize it. Todd’s goal is to create 20 pieces of content (think SlideShare presentations, videos, blog posts, white papers, etc.) all from one story idea. So, the next time you begin a story concept for your content marketing program, set your heights on Kelly’s model.
4. Rent to own: As content marketers, our goal is to own our media channels, just like publishers do. A strategy that never fails is the “rent-to-own” model. This means partnering with media companies through webinars and sponsored content opportunities to get your content in front of their audience. The goal of this would be to “convert” these prospect readers into your readers. With publishing models crumbling, most media companies would be happy to partner with you on any number of rent-to-own strategies.
5. Invest in editorial: So many brands today are leveraging employees and outside influencers as part of their content marketing programs. While I believe this is good, I see a gaping void in the editorial arena. Simply put, brands are not investing enough in editorial and proofreading as part of their processes. Every piece of content you create should have at least two sets of additional eyes on the content. In addition, your employees may have the stories, but may not be storytellers. Assign an editor to them to help them tell a story that works for your content marketing program.
6. M&A: Do an analysis on the media companies in your industry. Have a team discussion about which ones are the best fit for your content marketing program. Consider purchasing that media company.
7. Commit to the reader: As a media company ourselves, at CMI we do everything we can to commit to the reader experience. That said, most of our bills are paid by our benefactors and sponsors. It’s a challenging juggling act. As a brand, YOU DON’T HAVE THIS ISSUE. Leverage it. Commit your stories to one thing — what’s in it for them, meaning the reader (aka, your customer). This is your critical advantage, and one where you can focus all of your attention.
If you choose to, you can be the leading “media company” in your industry. The only thing holding you back is you. Make the choice.
You’ll find more insight on leveraging content marketing trends in “Managing Content Marketing,” by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi.
Cover image by Yellow.Cat via Flickr.