Consumers now expect brands to be where they are, when they are, in the format they expect, and on the device they are using at the time. As a result, information is simultaneously found, shared, read, seen, heard and watched as awareness is being generated and decisions are being formed.
Traditional media is being disrupted and becoming more digital. At the same time, content marketing, search and social are being elevated into more integral parts of holistic digital marketing campaigns.
As traditional media and content marketing converge, there lies the perfect storm for brands to become publishers and storytellers across all channels and platforms.
Through owned, earned and paid media, brands now have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with their audience and transform into media companies.
Digital mediums such as YouTube are evolving much faster than traditional TV. Brands are using these digital mediums to connect with their audience in a more personalised way – just as consumers now expect.
Take this video from Coke for example.
The comments are all generally positive, such as:
“Well done guys, the idea with bottles and glasses is great. Could be good ad for coke 🙂 ”
“I usually skip all the publicity on this site, but this time was different, I give it a chance and it amazed me. I hope Coca Cola give you guys a big $ for this, because this is golden.”
It’s a world where people actually want to consume and share branded content.
Content Marketing to Become Content Brands
There are three areas of focus needed to help brands become media companies: strategy, publishing and amplification.
Entire books have been written about strategy so of course we can’t cover it all here. One important rule we follow is to never create strategy in a vacuum.
It’s vital to fuse your market research, SEO, content, publishing and amplification strategies into one. If you do SEO without publishing you end up link building instead of link earning. If you do amplification without market research you end up potentially promoting to the wrong audience in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The following items must be considered when developing an effective content strategy:
Voice and tone
Style guidelines and branding
Personas – audience demographics and psychographics
Content plan – channel integration
Social and community
A proper content marketing strategy that incorporates market research, SEO, brand publishing, and amplification will drive leads while improving search and social as channels.
2. Brand Publishing
In order for brands to connect with their consumers across fragmented digital mediums, they have to become storytellers. To effectively become a brand publisher they need processes, talent, technology and great content.
The significance of the content producer is most evident in Google and Twitter. Google updated its Agent Rank algorithm in 2011, and launched Google+, which they’ve defined as their social network, and identity service. Google’s algorithm is now asking “who” is creating the content and how influential is that producer within his or her niche. In mid-2012 Google began displaying rich snippets including the author’s name and picture in search results for more than 20 percent of all keyword searches. This illustrates Google’s use of authorship as a strong trust signal and one that should, and will, become more prominent.
3. Content Amplification
The industry has exploded with incredible companies and platforms to help brands amplify their content. We’ve partnered with many, if not most, of the companies in the content discovery space and native advertising so that we can help brands get in front of the right audience at the right time. Content amplification makes all content, search, and social efforts more productive, leading to increased visibility, engagement, and revenue. Content amplification is conducted through earned media/digital PR and paid media.
Earned Media/Digital PR
Earned media relates to all marketing and PR that benefits a brand’s visibility without the cost of advertising. Earned media occurs naturally, but can be amplified further through targeted content placement and influencer outreach.
Content Placement – Integrate brand citations and links within relevant stories published on targeted third party publications.
Influencer Outreach – Promote corporate product content and publication content to reputable influencers within the industry or related verticals and design custom engagement plans for promotion.
Paid media represents all forms of digital advertising and is effective at reaching an audience that may be otherwise unreachable.
Access your search audience where you are lacking visibility in organic rankings. Information gathered from Paid Search can fuel current and future strategies. With keywords mapped properly to customer need and intent, ad copy can be hyper-targeted to satisfy customer needs, and landing page optimisation can further improve conversions.
Expose brand messaging and publication content to an ultra- targeted audience. Paid social is excellent at driving awareness on a new product or brand asset.
Native Advertising – Drive publication content impressions through category relevant publishing outlets to increase readership, social fans, and brand advocates. Display & Retargeting – Remind consumers of the brand through calculated display retargeting. This tactic becomes more impactful with brand publishing as users can be influenced from awareness to interest, desire and action.
Similar to traditional public relations, the intent of amplification is to get your strategic and coordinated brand message in front of your audience and consumer at the right time and in the right place. When executed properly, amplification and continuous, yet appropriate, stimulation of your audience and customers will lead them through the purchase funnel.
So what does all this mean?
The big buzzword in the marketing world right now is ‘content marketing’.
You may have heard it nefariously operating under various names: Custom publishing, custom media, customer media, customer publishing, private media, branded content, corporate media, corporate publishing, corporate journalism and branded media. However it all boils down to the same thing: creating engaging content that attracts, engages and builds a relationship with an audience which may make a purchase in time.
As with any marketing practice – the definitions of content marketing are manifold and expansive – however, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, sums up the ethos as:
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services… they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you”.
Regardless of the moniker du jour – content marketing represents a massive shift in thinking for brands who have historically placed great stock against the interruptive marketing of yore.
Traditionally, brands – in a bid to capture attention – have interrupted consumers to talk about their product; when you’re reading a magazine – you see an ad; if you’re watching TV – you see a commercial; when you’re online – you get a pop-up. Each of these interruptions is an unsolicited marketing message from a brand that you may or may not give two hoots about.
30 years ago, market research firm Yankelovich estimated that the typical city-dweller was subject to 2,000 of these marketing messages a day. When Yankelovich revisited the study in 2008 this number had grown to 5,000.
Consumer research continually highlights that most of these marketing message are irrelevant to their current interests and needs. More importantly, each of us now has increasing control over what marketing we receive from brands; we can opt-out of telemarketing and direct-mail; unsubscribe from email; skip TV ads; and so forth.
The antidote to this has been for brands to start seeking ‘permission’ to gain consumers’ attention. And what better way to gain permission to get someone’s attention than when they are actually looking for you. Or at least something you can help with.
Content marketing has emerged then as means to reach people who are continually looking for information, entertainment or help. Brands can use content marketing to pull people in who aren’t necessarily interested in a specific product but instead meeting a need-state behind the product purchase.
There are many standout examples of content marketing. These include, L’Oreal which has Makeup.com – a site that talks about style and beauty issues without overtly pushing L’Oreal’s own product line; General Mills offers dieting advice and tips at Tablespoon.com; Red Bull has created Red Bulletin – a high-octane magazine for thrill-seekers and sports fanatics; American Express have created Open Forum – a portal of helpful articles which cover issues faced by small business owners.
In none of these examples are the brands explicitly saying buy this, buy that, buy now. Rather, they are publishing and distributing content that engages and attracts customers and prospects and enables their lifestyles. It is lifestyle-centric rather than product-centric.
For sure, forward-thinking major brands have been doing content marketing for decades. One famous example is the Michelin Guide which was originally written in 1900 by Michelin tire founders and brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin, the original publication consisted of 35,000 free guides that included practical information, travel tips, and maps to vehicle fuel and service stations. Since then, these guides been used by warring soldiers and tourists alike and have grown to considerable prestige as an authority in destination travel and restaurant suggestions.
However, it is the rate, ubiquity and variety of content marketing – especially online – that has shown the how far content marketing as a practice has come.
We are increasingly living in a world where content is king and great way to steal and hold attention. Because you have chosen to read this article – you have elected to concentrate your interest here, rather than elsewhere. There is no doubt the information we read has an impact on what we think, what we do – and most importantly for a brand – what we buy. And this is why brands are now rushing to become publishers.
Digitization process is on the upswing in China where digital publishing is being accorded far greater emphasis than any time before. The rapid emergence of internet and digital technologies has only acted as a catalyst to the digital transformation process. If the above trend is put in financial terms, the figures are astounding to say the least. For instance, the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from digital publishing over the period of 2002 – 2012 stands at an impressive 61.6 percent. Further, the total revenue generated by the Chinese digital publishing industry stands at an astounding $42.89 billion for 2013. The same is predicted to reach even more astounding $57.74 billion in 2014. To further add impetus to the digitization process, China has set up the first batch of what it calls as the digital publishing transformation demonstration institutions. There are 70 such institutions set up so far though more of these will come in place this year. The first digital publishing industry base – the Shanghai Zhangjiang National Digital Publishing Base was set up in 2008 followed by more such bases in Chongqing, Hangzhou, Hubei and Hunan. The country already boasts of a dozen such national digital publishing industry bases.
Adobe has let it known that they will be coming up with the technical specifications of .folio format for e-magazines under free license sometime in Q1 2014. An inherent benefit of the .folio format is that it will allow newsstands to launch their own viewing apps for users to read digital magazines that have been built using Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite. This, Adobe claims will lead to greater acceptance of digital magazines published using Adobe DPS which has already seen three times the growth achieved in 2013 as it has been the year before it.
What is also heartening for Adobe is that readers have been found to engage with the publications, with them tending to spend about 50 mins on average with DPS digital magazines in a month. Cost efficiency and ease of use of DPS has been attributed to the success of the digital publishing platform though also contributing significantly to the success story are the consumer marketing tools that are an integral package of DPS magazine apps. These features include the ability for readers to share articles using the social networking sites, feature that allows a particular article or an entire issue to be previewed for free and so on.
But what will change effectively for publishers and brands who want to adopt this de-facto standard? This free license will enable any newsstand licensee to implement its own .folio viewer. At this moment the only available viewer for .folios was the ADOBE Viewer, hence the big change.
BERLIN: A month after the Frankfurt Book Fair, where German publishing declared it was “the year of the start-up,” the two day E-PUBLISH conference took place last week in Berlin. Several keynote speeches and smaller ‘table sessions’ continued the book branch’s focus on start-ups and innovation in digital publishing, with topics like entrepreneurship, new business and pricing models such as subscriptions, as well as the BUDIP award for innovation. In addition, the violinist Seth Schwarz opened both days of the conference with his electric violin and loop machine. His mash-ups of electronic, hip-hop and classical music set the mood for debates about innovation and multimedia.
Reader Relationships Central
Several speakers touched on the changing role of the author. Dr. Gunter Faltin (Free University) compared self publishing to the fair trade movement, highlighting how “cutting out the middleman” enables authors to create one-on-one relationships with readers. The evening speaker, Dirk von Gehlen, journalist and writer of Eine neue Version ist verfügbar (a new version is available), emphasized the importance of connecting with readers by drawing from his own experience with crowdfunding. By crowdfunding, authors can share the writing process with readers, which means that readers are not just buying a book, but the experience of seeing how a book comes into being.
The German Book Prize winning author Katharina Hacker introduced the new author collective Fiktion, which started with a declaration. As a laboratory for international authors, Fiktion wants to radically rethink ebook distribution. For instance Hacker asked “Does free access lead to the destruction of traditional payment structures, or help authors to (re) discover readers?” They hope to develop solutions through collaboration — both with authors, universities and lawyers. Hacker expressed that fiction writers are increasingly worried that changing media consumption makes readers less able to concentrate on complex, long texts. She said: “we aren’t concerned that content can be distributed for free online, circumventing us, but that our way of writing and thinking is being marginalized.” While she didn’t offer any concrete solutions, like other participants in this year’s E:PUBLISH conference she emphasized the necessity for experimentation, being open to new approaches and not being afraid of failure.
As self-publishing is on the rise in Germany, there was much also debate about how publishers can prove their value to authors. Elisabeth Ruge, head of Hanser Berlin, emphasized that publishers shouldn’t forget the importance of sharpening their own profile. Another workshop group concluded that book publishers have to increasingly become service providers, topic scouts and community managers. In other words, the focus has to be on serving authors and appealing to readers with relevant content.
Manuela Schauerhammer challenged publishers to use digital mediums for more inclusivity in kids books: “Why not portray a choice of body types or ethnic backgrounds?” she asked.
Many presenters also concentrated on the future of formats. ePub 3 and interactive formats, such as the Tiger format for animated children’s books, were widely discussed. In one keynote, the blogger and children’s book expert Manuela Schauerhammer shared her experience on how kids read in the digital era. For instance, older kids consider animated books to be too childish. Several school kids told Schauermacher they preferred to work online as opposed to with ebooks: “I’d rather work online, where I can click to other websites, copy text, watch videos.” Finally, Schauermacher made a case for using digital mediums more inclusively — why not portray more children with different body types or ethnic backgrounds? Why not offer more bilingual ebooks? She concluded with the appeal that “the internet is international — cooperate with digital.”
New Approaches, New Business Models
At the conference a number of new approaches to digital publishing were also discussed. The CEO of GRIN Verlag, Christian Damke, said that publishers have to realize they are “IT companies with a cultural mission.” GRIN and their partner marketing agency Bilandia help publishers develop content strategies in which all channels work together as part of one unified “ecosystem.”
‘Digital first’ publishing was also on everyone’s minds. Ebook only publishers such as Dotbooks, CulturBooks and Sobooks (a browser-based e-book store and publisher) were often mentioned as examples of true innovation in publishing. Dotbooks offers “XXL-sized book excerpts”, as they’ve seen that readers are more likely to buy a book after reading up to 40% of it. The digital first publishers can more quickly adapt to the demands of a rapidly changing marketplace. Those which sell directly — such as Sobooks plans to do – see the benefits in owning customer relationships and the data about their target groups’ reading habits.
Agentme took the prize for best startup.
E:PUBLISH also awarded the BUDIP prize (Buch Digitale Innovation Pitch) for innovative ideas in digital publishing. The candidates had to propose ideas to the jury in 3-minute blitz presentations. They offered a variety of creative solutions, from the “emo-meter,” which could recommend books based on mood, to Blinkist, an app which lets users read bite-sized articles based on nonfiction books as a way of discovering new reads. This year’s prize was awarded to Dennis Brunotte for agentme, a platform which connects authors, agents and editors to sell rights internationally.
Overall, E:PUBLISH 2013 provided few hard facts about the state of digital publishing in the German market. Instead, the gathering captured publishers’ and authors’ yearning for change and gave a good sense of the mood in the industry. Beyond ‘start-up fever’, many publishers still have reservations about how to create sustainable business models in the changing market. As von Gehlen mentioned, since digital largely solves the “problem of scarcity” in the arts, it’s more difficult to monetize that content. As cultural products shift more and more to being experience-based, book publishers need to change tack in order to offer more added value. In table session conversations, many suggested adding additional functions to e-books to make them more appealing. However, other participants recognized this product-based thinking as problematic. Do readers really want extra frills, or simply the opportunity to interact and connect?
One side comment was particularly telling. A participant explained the Wattpad business model as “a publisher which only consists of a technical platform, and they don’t even want to make money!” While this is a gross understatement at best, it aptly captures the gap in thinking between traditional publishing models and online publishing. At the same time, projects like Sobooks and Flipintuacknowledge that book publishing needs to learn a lesson or two from online models in order to remain relevant and user-friendly — which even school children recognize.
At the E:PUBLISH conference one could sense the excitement and curiosity about what lies ahead for German publishing. Many echoed the statement of Günter Faltin, who emphasized that “innovation needs to come from outside” the industry. This year’s conference hosted a variety of newcomers. Yet the question remains: will a changing of the guard be enough to create a large-scale shift in publishers’ attitudes, or will ‘digital first’ thinking remain the territory of authors, start-ups, and industry outsiders?
Google has become so big that sometimes it’s difficult to understand just how big it is. It’s on course to do $60 billion in revenue this year, almost all of that from advertising. But how big is that in terms of the media it competes against for ad dollars?
To answer that, Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget presented this slide in his keynote at Ignition 2013 this morning. It shows that Google alone is now bigger than either newspapers and magazines.
In part this is because the print media has suffered such a precipitous decline. But note that Google’s last full year results from 2012 are approaching the historic maximum that all magazines combined achieved back in 2007 before the crash.
It’s won’t be long now, in other words, before Google not only eclipses magazines but also becomes bigger than magazines ever were — even when there was no Internet to compete with.