Custom content helps publishers help marketers with brand conversations
Magazines and newspapers may see challenges to the left in a shifting marketplace and competitors to the right in terms of marketers-turned-content providers. In the middle, however, are opportunities for media companies to leverage custom content to create new revenue streams.
The time may be right for publishing companies to forge new custom content strategies. Marketers are shifting more resources to creating custom content as a means to connect directly with customers jaded by exposure to decades of advertising.
“Marketers view private-label media as an effective way to support their relationship marketing and lead-generation agenda,” said Matthew Egol, partner at Booz & Company. Booz estimates about one-quarter of marketing spending is going toward custom content, with an even higher percentage in the digital space. “We consistently find that [B2C and B2B media] companies spend well over half of their digital spending on private label media,” Egol said..
Fixing the ad model
This presents an opportunity for publishers to leverage their editorial and audience-development expertise to build custom programs for marketers. As the debate over paid content rages on, custom content may be a better path for publishers looking for a sustainable, advertiser-driven revenue model.
“The model that needs to be fixed is the advertising model,” said Simon Kelly, chief operating officer of custom media company Story Worldwide. “The content model is fine.”
The traditional publishing model – framed around creating content and allowing advertisers to rent space around it – is like going out to a five-star restaurant and watching the wait staff choose your meal and enjoy it at your expense, according to Kelly. Now, however, marketers have the tools to cook up content compelling enough to engage an audience, and start their own brand conversations. “Why rent when you can own?” asked Kelly.
Storytelling without promotion
With custom content, brands want to tell a story in an engaging format, and it's up to the creators of that content to draw the line in terms of tipping into promotion, according to Kelly. This is where publishers can play a valuable role: by helping brands associate themselves with smart, compelling content. “Advertisers want to be part of a collaborative brand experience,” Kelly said.
In addition to content expertise, publishers also have the subscriber lists that can help marketers reach a particular audience. “Publishers are a database of readers and subscribers and names,” said Cameron Brown, CEO of King Fish Media, a custom media company. Publishers also possess the digital platforms to deliver the content – and the metrics to track the results. This “trackability of action,” Brown said, is the key to delivering successful custom content programs.
Where to focus?
Building a successful custom media business requires some new thinking from publishers. Here are five important areas of focus:
1) Collaborate with advertising partners to demonstrate the value you bring to the program – so you’re not cut out of the deal;
2) Leverage your audience metrics along with social media tools to understand where readers are going for content – and share that information with your customers;
3) Build out your measurement systems with the understanding that the custom content you produce is less important to marketers than the data you provide about who’s consuming and reacting to that content;
4) Create a custom content plan focused on longer-term audience engagement, not just short-term lead generation;
5) Offer custom video and other rich-media programs to convince marketers to redirect television advertising budgets to relevant digital channels.