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Content Marketing Strategies of the 7 Media Giants

Believe it or not, we have all been swayed by some almost-invisible forces of content marketing, and we may not even have realized it. But once you do realize how it’s being used all around you, you’ll really see how powerful content marketing really is!

Before you think I’m crazy or some kind of conspiracy theorist, what I’m about to share with you comes from a very reliable source, the PBS series Frontline. Let me explain to you what I mean.

The merchants of cool

On February 27, 2001, the PBS series Frontline aired an episode called, “The Merchants of Cool. This show revealed some of the forces that have been swaying us consumers for years.

The show revealed that corporations use focus groups and pay some companies (up to $20,000) to help them discover what’s cool on the streets. Why? They want to be the first to know the trends so they can ride them and leverage them to promote and sell their products.

While they didn’t talk about content marketing directly, I came to realize they were revealing, in essence, the content strategies of the seven media giants. I’ll show you what I mean; but first, does anyone remember the movie The Truman Show with Jim Carey?

In the movie, his decisions were influenced by others. Products were placed into his life. They manufactured experiences and ways to control him. And here’s the crazy part, he didn’t even realize it!

What if our lives were a little closer to this reality than we think?

In “The Merchants Of Cool,” Frontline explained there are seven enormous companies that are responsible for selling nearly all of youth culture (and really, all culture).

These are the true merchants of cool: Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Universal Vivendi, AOL/Time Warner, Bertelsmann, and Sony.

Robert McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Illinois, has said, “The entertainment companies, which are a handful of massive conglomerates that own four of the five music companies that sell 90 percent of the music in the United States… also own all the film studios, all the major TV networks, all the TV stations pretty much in the 10 largest markets. They own all or part of every single commercial cable channel.”

He went on to explain that these companies look at the teen market as part of a massive empire that they are looking to “colonize” and make money from, and the weapons they use to accomplish this takeover are their films, music, books, CDs, Internet access, clothing, amusement parks, sports teams.

Let me give you an example of how this plays out for one of Viacom’s biggest brands: Howard Stern.

The unbelievable reach and power of content marketing

Watch how Viacom leveraged Howard Stern across its properties with the use of content marketing:

  1. His radio show is syndicated on 50 of Viacom’s Infinity radio stations (audio content).
  2. His TV show (video content) was broadcasted weekly on CBS (owned by Viacom).
  3. When he wrote a No. 1 best-selling autobiography (print content), it was published by Simon and Schuster. Guess who owns that company? Yep. Viacom!
  4. Later, Paramount Pictures released a major motion picture (video content), based on Howard’s book, which grossed $40 million domestically. And who owns Paramount Pictures? You guessed it. Viacom. (You’re getting good at this!)
  5. After the movie was released, copies of the home video (video content) made millions at Blockbuster Video, which is owned by Viacom.

By the time they’re done, Howard was everywhere, and it felt like he must have been the hottest thing out at the time even though it was all based on content fed to us by one company.

Really amazing isn’t it? Do you see why I said it’s the almost “invisible forces” of content marketing?

How you can apply this to your business

In the past, I’ve written about how businesses limit the value, usefulness, and portability of their content marketing. What does this mean? When you limit the formats your content takes, you limit its ability to travel to where all your prospects are, and you limit how valuable and useful it will be to your audience. For example, if you only create your content in text form, then you limit its value and usefulness to people who don’t, won’t, or can’t read.

The lesson to learn from the Big 7 and apply to your own content marketing efforts is to use every form of content (and every angle) you can to promote your product or service. In fact, the more ways you use content the better! You’ve likely heard of the marketing Rule of 7. Well, this is the new way to apply it with content marketing.

4 essential content types

Here are the four basic forms your content can take and the places those forms can appear.


  • Online: blogs, micromessaging (e.g., Twitter), social networking sites (Facebook & Google+), your website.
  • Offline: books, articles, reports, newsletters.


  • Online: podcasting, online radio, MP3s.
  • Offline: CDs, MP3s.


  • Online: YouTube, Vimeo, etc.
  • Offline: DVDs, TV, movies, etc.


  • Online: webinars, teleconferences.
  • Offline: seminars, interviews, etc.

Whenever you want to promote your products, don’t get stuck in your default content marketing format. Force yourself to create content in at least one of these other forms. But, as we’ve learned from the Big 7 example, the more the better.

Before I end, I have a confession for you: I don’t do this enough. I tend to rely on text because it’s the format that I’m most used to. But creating only text-based content limits me and my content.

My goal moving forward is to do a much better job of incorporating additional content formats, and I would encourage you to do this too. When you do, you’ll see the true power of content marketing that the Big 7 have been using all along, and you’ll see your product or service gain new attention and sales.

What about you? Do you use more than one form of content marketing in your business or for your clients? Please tell us in the comments section below.