Are Corporations the New Kings of Content?
There are significant changes underway in the media business. Competition, which has traditionally been fairly straightforward and easy to identify, is now surrounding the playing field. Of course, the Internet is a big factor here, but something more important is going on.
Corporations are the new content providers, jumping with both feet into the province once deemed the sacred right of publishing houses.The new marketers call it "content marketing." Its roots are in the earlier formation of custom publishing and the concepts of branded content.
The transition in the control of editorial content that started over a dozen years ago is gaining momentum and traction with increasing speed. The Custom Publishing Council, Veronis Suhler Stevenson and others put the value of corporate editorial projects somewhere between $28 and $55 billion and growing at 20 percent plus every year.
The impact of this movement has effectively challenged traditional publishing's claim of producing the market's "trusted, unbiased, and objective" editorial content. In case you haven't noticed, corporations have figured out how to do exactly that. They have hired some of the best journalists around, looked for, found and paid for authoritative experts to inform their audiences, set editorial and graphic standards that surpass those of many publications. And, perhaps one of the most critical components, have launched stringent measurement analysis to both determine and improve the content they are sending out.
Some issues shaping the future of content media:
- Change in consumer behavior. Today's sophisticated, Internet-savvy consumer looks for valuable and informative content from any sources. This consumer does not care if the content comes from "credible, traditional sources." Media in North America is evolving much like the UK's, where seven of the top ten newsstand publications are custom publications.
- Distribution. A key strength of both paid and controlled circulation magazines was in their ability to document and deliver specific demographics on just about any kind of definable market. Technology took that advantage away long ago. Most corporations today have better and more detailed information in their CRM systems than publications do.
- Budgets. Corporations often have bigger budgets and more resources to find and pay for the best research and content in the markets they serve. Unfortunately, too many media companies have been cutting both research and editorial budgets at the same time.
- The "Anti-Sell." The more informed the consumer or buyer is, the more difficult it is to sell them. Smart marketers know this and are creating strong brand relationships by providing good, authoritative, even leadership-type content. Media companies are often in reverse, giving in more and more to advertising demands that weaken the editorial product in efforts to maintain ad dollars.
- Technology. Technology is the underpinning of much of this change and is increasing exponentially in ways that make content distribution easy. Corporate marketers are taking advantage of all the technology they can get their hands on.
- Editorial. The key to successful media programs for corporations is great content. Consumers know the difference between great content and a blatant sales pitch with no inherent value.
But all is not lost. Media companies that want to participate in the content marketing revolution have some basic competencies that appeal to corporations that have or are planning to deliver their own content to the marketplace.
The primary difficulty for corporations moving into content is that they lack the built-in proficiencies such as setting editorial and production schedules, and planning and producing a "sustainable editorial product." They don't have an inherent understanding of the importance and adherence to the production process, blending and coordinating the timelines of writers, graphic artists, editorial advisory boards, approvals, printers. Media companies excel at understanding how to effectively communicate with the marketplace.
Editorial, research, databases and technology can all be duplicated. Communication experts, who know how to market and manage media projects, are still hard to find.
Participating in the content marketing marketplace means learning to sell your communication expertise along with the ability to sell advertising.
Joe Pulizzi is chief content officer for Junta42 (www.junta42.com), a content marketing search portal, and founder and president for Z Squared Media, LLC, a content marketing consulting firm.