By Joe Pulizzi published June 6, 2017

The Future Model for Content Marketing and Media Are Identical

future-model-content-marketing-media-identicalA few months back I wrote about Cosmopolitan magazine in my letter for the CMI weekly newsletter (hey, don’t judge … this is for work).

In looking through its media kit, I saw that Cosmopolitan reaches a monthly audience of over 14 million women via the print magazine and over 50 million including digital channels. About 60% of the audience reads at least three out of every four issues, and when they do, it’s for an average of 75 minutes.

Yes, you read that correctly … 75 minutes.

Cosmo’s stated mission is: “to empower young women to own who they are and be who they want to be, and we’re focused on propelling her into her fun, fearless future. No excuses, no bull@#*%, no regrets.”

Let’s take a minute to compare that to one of the largest companies in the world, Exxon Mobil, which states its mission as: “Exxon Mobil Corporation is committed to being the world’s premier petroleum and petrochemical company. To that end, we must continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of business conduct.”

Notice the difference?

The content business model

Cosmo is completely focused on the audience. There isn’t one word about what it sells to make a profit. Exxon, on the other hand, has a clear mission around what it sells. Oil … and lots of it. Good for them.

.@Cosmopolitan’s mission is focused on its audience – that’s the #content business model, says @JoePulizzi. Click To Tweet

Cosmo has made content its business model.

In our upcoming book, Killing Marketing, Robert Rose states that, “It is the strategic use of content that will not only build audiences, and drive the creation and retention of customers, but it can do so at a profit.”

Sounds like a media company, right? It should.

While traditionally Cosmo’s go-to revenue strategy revolves around selling advertising, Cosmo has a number of flexible options to make money from its content.

Cosmo’s model looks something akin to this:

Create a loyal audience. Once we learn the deep-rooted needs of that audience, and deliver value to them consistently and the audience (reader) becomes a fan (subscriber), we monetize that relationship in multiple ways.

And Cosmo does, from books to beauty packages to native advertising to syndicated content to promotions. If Cosmo leaders are even half-innovative, they’ll see how many products they could sell directly to their readers (instead of mostly just selling access to advertisers). When that happens, watch out!

Robert and I know a number of wonderful people who work at Exxon, but we don’t envy them their task. It’s very challenging for a marketing professional to leverage content with a mission that revolves around the product (and not the customer).

Media or product brand?

Exxon is one of the largest, most valuable companies in the world. It leveraged every bit of traditional marketing and a traditional business model, and came up roses. But if Exxon wants to grow substantially bigger and become a growth company (if that’s even possible), it needs to kill that model.

You may be wondering to yourself, “But Joe, Cosmopolitan is a media company and Exxon sells a product. Of course the models should be different.”

Should they?

Dennis Publishing is one of the largest independently owned media companies in the United Kingdom. Its big titles include Men’s Fitness and The Week, but it also holds large content platforms in the automotive sector, including brands like Car Buyer and Auto Express.

Over the last 10 years, most media companies have struggled to grow significantly, as print advertising continues to die a slow death. But this hasn’t affected Dennis. According to The Guardian, Dennis Publishing has increased revenue 63% from £59 million in 2009 to £93 million in 2016. How, you ask?

In November 2014, Dennis acquired the online car dealer BuyACar, which now generates 16% of the media company’s total revenue. That’s correct. This little media company sells over 200 cars per day. Dennis has the audience (interested car buyers) and formed a loyal relationship with them over time. In hindsight, it was a no-brainer move for Dennis to buy an online car dealer or e-commerce company, but yet few media companies see this as a possibility (for now).

.@DennisUK sells 200+ cars per day. Is it a media company or a brand that sells products, asks @JoePulizzi. Click To Tweet

Is Dennis a media company or a brand that sells products and services? How about Red Bull or Johnson & Johnson (which runs

Celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow launched in 2008. Originally conceived as a weekly e-newsletter on travel recommendations and shopping tips, Goop quickly attracted over 1 million e-mail subscribers. Once Goop developed a committed, loyal audience, it started launching products and, in 2016, announced and began selling a full clothing line.

Is Goop a media company or a brand that, for now, sells fashionable clothing? What might it sell five years from now?

Today, if you had to choose between creating an audience and then directly selling to that audience versus renting outside channels that you don’t control and don’t own, which would you choose? Of course, you’d go direct. It’s an incredibly easy decision to make, and yet, most companies have been choosing to rent (primarily) year after year. We keep sustaining, as Robert often states, an “inefficient” system like it is the only game in town. We’ve been led to believe that our current marketing is the hand we’ve been dealt, and there’s nothing more we can do.

The same model

The purpose of this article is to get you to rethink your purpose as a marketing department. As marketers, we become so focused on leads and funnels and scoring that we sometimes forget what’s possible. Maybe, instead of hawking a product, your goal as a marketing executive is to build a real relationship with your buyers, which then has the potential of making markets (isn’t that the purpose of marketing?).

Build a real relationship w/ your buyers & create the potential of making new markets, says @JoePulizzi. Click To Tweet

For the upcoming Killing Marketing book, as Robert and I studied our research on large enterprise marketing departments as well as media companies over the past few years, both of us kept coming to the same conclusion:

The new media business model and the new marketing business model are exactly the same.

Media Marketing Revenue Model

The new media & new marketing business models are exactly the same, say @JoePulizzi & @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

Media companies have historically focused on the five direct-revenue paths, as noted in the figure above. Brands that sell products and services have focused on the outside five or indirect paths to revenue when building a loyal audience.

Our contention is that marketers (as well as media executives) need to open their minds to all 10 possible revenue opportunities, and that if you don’t, your competition will. Right now there is a clear opportunity for any company in any industry of any size to make this happen. Will you?

Want to buy one of the first copies of Killing Marketing? It will be released at Content Marketing World. Register today to attend the Sept. 5-8 event in Cleveland, Ohio. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Marc Guberti

    I love the core message of focusing on being loyal to your audience. The revenue opportunities are very interesting. Right now I capitalize on about half of those methods for generating revenue. Someday I’ll hold my own conference.

    • Joe Pulizzi


  • KrisMurphyBlountCountyAL

    How can you compare Cosmo to Exxon? Cosmo is content ONLY company and the other is oil/gas ONLY! A total apples to asparagus comparison

    • heidicohen


      I believe Joe’s point is that Exxon’s mission statement is focused on generating profit for its shareholders, not on improving the lives of its customers and the people where it operates. (It passes the MBA test!)

      BUT–Exxon has deep knowledge about the physical world they’ve learned while mining for oil. At a minimum, they’re required by law to generate information for fire departments for safety reasons.

      Instead they could transform this information about how to go green and protect the environment to educate and help people while making a profit. They choose not to.

      Research shows that millennials, the dominant purchase segment, prefer businesses that care about helping improve the world.

      Happy marketing,

      Heidi Cohen
      Actionable Marketing Guide

      • Matt LaClear

        If you’re Exxon there’s no reason to get into content marketing, unless it’s for PR purposes. Putting together content will not sell an extra barrel of oil for them given their distribution channels.

        • Joe Pulizzi

          Exxon is in a hundred other businesses besides oil…but their mission statement doesn’t allow for that. They have an opportunity to grow revenues in a number of areas (if they wish to), but they aren’t giving marketing a chance. Just my 2 cents.

          • Matt LaClear

            Excellent point, Joe. With their budget they could grow in any direction they like.

  • Winston A. Henderson

    Hey loved this article Joe, it got me excited about the future of CM. How can one position themselves to build a brand as the leading and dominant force in their industry using CM?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Love it Winston. Thanks!

  • heidicohen


    I totally agree that regardless of your business, product or service, you must focus on your audience. This means your prospects, their influencers, the end users, the buyers, and others. If you’re true to them and their needs and wants, you’ll succeed.

    As an aside, Cosmo has been the go-to handbook for how to write content that pulls readers in, especially its headlines.

    Also, Dennis Publishing like Cosmo continues to evolve with the times. It started out as a computer oriented publisher.

    Happy marketing,

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Heidi!

  • Keiji Yoshiki

    Great article, specially for marketing decision makers!

  • Atiqul Bari Chowdhury

    Great Piece! I think CMI articles touched this topic here and there in the past, but you made an entire article focusing on this. Thanks again for giving the focus it deserves. I hope decision makers will notice.

  • joewaters

    Joe Pulizzi, thank you for reading Cosmo so us guys don’t have to! 😉

    Great message, Joe. I spoke to over 150 nonprofit leaders last week and shared Robert and your message of building an audience and monetizing it. Nonprofits can do it too!

    I told them the alternative really isn’t an option…

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Love it Joe!

  • Arvind Kesh

    Brilliant article Joe! 10 possible revenue opportunities!! 😵
    I was just thinking of 2-3 all the time. Btw, can you elaborate a bit more on the subscription revenue? That actually comes under products and services right? Please correct me if I’m wrong!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Arvind…thanks. Subscription revenue is ANY ongoing revenue that people pay for weekly, monthly or annually. In most cases, it looks like a training subscription (paying $50 per month for access to training content), traditional content subscription (paying $12.99 a year for a magazine subscription). If you are selling a SaaS model, that would go under product sales, not subscription revenue in this case. Does that help?

  • Nancy Johnson

    Joe, I see your point that all brands and businesses would benefit from building a strong relationship with customers/audience. But I struggle to see how Exxon could develop an audience-focused mission, given its many business arms and audiences. Or do you really mean to say that it’s the marketing arms of Exxon that should focus on audience?
    I wonder if you could compare Cosmo to its owner, Hearst, which also has hundreds of businesses/brands, from cable TV to real estate holdings, to further clarify how a corporation could create a single mission statement focused on audience?