By Joe Pulizzi published February 23, 2013

7 Ways to Dominate Your Media Competitor Through Content Marketing

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)

Limited resources

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.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Michelle Bruno

    Thanks for the advice Joe. I’m interested in your comment, “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.” How will that influence writing styles? Should we focus on writing more “tight” short-form articles that are mobile friendly? Should be completely abandon long-form, i.e. the ebooks and white papers, because they might not be read? Plus, in the interim, should we write two versions of the same article: one more suitable for reading on a mobile device and the other for reading on a PC? What does your crystal content ball tell you?

    • Tom Mangan

      Reading on a handheld – whether it’s a phone or a tablet – is much different from reading on a computer. It’s “lean-back’ media rather than lean-forward. It’s much easier to read long articles with a sweep-able smartphone or tablet than it is to do the same thing on a computer.

      The real challenge for mobile is getting ads onto the tiny space. It does not really work. But this works in content marketing’s favor because the content is the ad.

      And Joe: I think you got a little carried away saying Elon Musk is on equal footing with the New York Times. Just because he can talk back does not mean he has the Times’ heft.

      • Joe Pulizzi

        You may be right Tom…but let’s just say that Elon has all the tools that the Times has. No barriers to entry.

    • Kevin Lund

      Michelle, consider the audience. Anything digital will need tighter articles and lower word counts. As a rule of thumb, we try to keep digital articles “device agnostic” and under 1200 words for “long form” articles and 600-800 words for shorter-form “departments” or quick hits. But I wouldn’t be so quick to alienate one audience to appeal to another by abandoning ebooks and white papers altogether. If they’re doing what they’re supposed to, keep ’em. It’s another tool in the toolbox. Let your metrics tell you what to do instead of chasing the next good idea.

      • Joe Pulizzi

        Excellent advice!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Michele…Kevin took the words right out of my mouth. I guess my advice would be to consider mobile a separate channel and not “the same as web” like most publishers do. Figure out how your audience engaged in your content via mobile first, then figure out how to tell your story. We are just at the beginning of this thing, so lots of trial and error to come.

  • Tom Mangan

    Joe, thanks for the nod to those of us in the editorial game. Granted we’re required to think the edifice of publishing would crumble without good editing, but there is an objective benefit to having copy cleaned up, polished and made presentable for public consumption.

    This is especially true in B2B, when you’re trying to influence folks in the C-Suite. Their standards are set by likes of the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, which have some of the best writers and editors in the business.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      I always say that the managing editor is the most important person in the marketing department!

  • Barry Feldman

    Hey, congrats on this one Joe, you dominatrix. Great piece.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks a bunch Barry!

  • Jason Small

    Great piece Joe – particularly loved the responsive design statement and the great details regarding the changing landscape between media/advertisers and brands as publishers. It would be great to read a Q&A with the Forbes editor who now works for the GE Experts program…and get thoughts on how the model might look in a few years. Thanks for the read!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Jason…we are working on that Q&A. Great idea.

  • Frank Johnson

    I really enjoyed this article Joe. I’m curious if there is a place online to find out more about Todd Wheatland’s 20-to-1 model. Thanks!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Frank…Todd is going to talk about it at Content Marketing World Sydney next week. I’ll see if we can report on it.

      • Guest

        Hi Joe. Just wondering if it might still be a possibility to publish something regarding Todd’s 20-to-1 model. Thanks!

        • Joe Pulizzi

          Thanks Frank…I’m working on something like this for my new book. Thanks for the reminder.

        • Michele Linn

          Hi Frank,
          Just an FYI that we are in the process of finalizing an eBook that lays out this process, and we’ll be publishing this on the blog and on Slideshare. Stay tuned!

      • Frank Johnson

        Hi Joe. Just wondering if there is still a possibility of publishing more info on Todd’s 20-to-1 model. Thanks!

  • Jon Armstrong

    Could’t agree more on responsive design. Its an effective duct tape right now, but brands should really consider having a standalone mobile alternative.

  • Michael Gocia

    Thanks Joe , You have a presented very important matter , Recently i searched for this one but this was more helpful for me than which i found , You have explained in a beautiful way so that every one can understand easily.

  • James W

    this is a great post Joe, I also believe that my reader is my biggest investment. It seems that every month when I have good articles my business and advertising just increases.

    thank you so much for sharing 😉

  • Graciousstore

    Well said, mobile is the way to go in this century, and for any business to thrive in this age, it must jump into the “mobile wagon”

  • mony