Today there is not a marketer, brand or business who is not trying to advance some form of content marketing strategy. What they have all figured out is that content marketing is not merely about selling, but about telling a story, starting an actual dialogue and trying to develop a relationship that makes the consumer want to stay engaged, and better yet, want to come back.
While telling a story to engage the customer might be new to marketers, it is the cornerstone of what publishers have been doing for centuries. Greg Satell of the Harvard Business Review said “marketers do need to think more like publishers, but they also need to act more like publishers if they are ever going to be able to hold an audience’s attention”.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for publishers to wrap their heads around how they could sell their storytelling strength to businesses as a way to generate a new revenue stream? The argument can easily be made that the publishing industry has more legitimacy and qualification to participate in the delivery of content marketing and receive its share of the pie.
Content marketing can trace its roots back to the late 1900’s when John Deer tractor company offered a customer magazine called The Forrow. Or at the turn of the century when Michelin created the Michelin Guide, a roadside lodging and restaurant rating guide. Today, the term content marketing is defined by the Content Marketing Institute as ‘a technique for creating and distributing material designed to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.’ In layman’s terms, content marketing happens when businesses publish content instead of buying advertisements. The key objective, of course, is driving profitable customer actions.
The opportunity for publishers
Currently many businesses are creating their own in-house capacity for content marketing while others are hiring outside agencies or even leveraging a burgeoning labor pool of virtual writers. However, in this mad dash to find the skills and resources to plan, create and sustain all the content needed, why wouldn’t these businesses consider turning to publishers? This is an industry with the proven strengths and successes in this area.
Publishers may see this trend as a logical next step to generate more revenue from an infrastructure already in place. From an opportunistic point of view, the publishing industry is extraordinarily well-suited to deliver content marketing services for three reasons:
1) Publishers have the process, procedures, infrastructure and disciplines required to create and distribute unique content at scale. A core publisher strength is creating both quantity and quality of content.
2) Publishers have become experts at cultivating an established audience, and that creates a huge advantage for them. Publishers can go so far as to rely on a pull strategy because their captive audience actually seeks them out, and even opts-in to receive their content.
3) Publishers have mastered the ability to tell relevant stories, in long-form, short-form, abstractly, concretely, day after day, and at scale The notion of packaging up and selling this key competency to national brands and advertisers is a logical revenue stream.
Publisher-owned content studios offer access to both the editorial expertise and distribution reach of niche-media companies. According to PQ Media, many publishers ranging from The New York Times to The Onion are developing their own content marketing arms to sell their services. In many cases, this content ends up in the publication as ‘sponsored content’ and is paid for by the brand. The New York Times’s T Brand Studio is a content studio that creates custom content for their advertisers with Adam Aston, a former Businessweek editor, delivering “Timesworthy content’ that meets editorial standards.
Onion Labs helps brands create funny content, then distributes it through The Onion’s website and social engines. An indication of how successful this new business line has been is the fact that Onion Labs now accounts for 80 percent of the publisher’s revenues.
When talking about revenue possibilities, the opportunity is immense. According PQ Media, global spend for content marketing is projected to hit US$145bn in 2016 and grow to more than $313bn worldwide in 2019.
Content marketing is still an emerging discipline rooted in many complexities that generates huge revenues. At this stage, it’s too early to tell where content marketing will go and who will become the dominate service provider, but given the inherent strengths of the publishing industry, there is an immense opportunity ready for the taking.