6 ways publishers can take advantage of content marketing

By Shafqat Islam

Innovations in digital marketing and advertising have changed the way publishers do business.

From syndication to branded content, the US$44 billion content marketing industry is diversifying revenue streams for publishers.

Publishers reap the benefits of this increasingly popular brand investment: 

This growth trajectory is not unique to the U.S.; 49% of UK content marketers plan on increasing their content marketing spend this year. And Australian marketers have embraced it as well, with 98% of B2B and 89% of B2C marketers investing in content marketing today.

Today, publishers are creating more opportunities for brands to jump on the content marketing bandwagon. Consider these statistics:

  • 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads.
  • 20% of all Web traffic comes from shared content.
  • 67% more leads are achieved by brands maintaining an active blog.

The move to content marketing is not a fluke.

While each instance of content marketing is unique, I believe there are proven tactics publishers can use to impact their bottom lines. Let’s take a look at how.

Syndicate your content

Publisher-to-publisher syndication is not new. Syndicating content to brands, however, opens up whole new (and often bigger) budgets.

Brands have massive digital audiences, and they need content for blogs, social media streams, websites, mobile apps, etc. To sleep easy at night, they want trusted, reliable content from premium publishers. 

Syndicating — simply the repurposing of — existing content to brands requires no additional work on the part of the publisher. It increases found revenue straight to the publisher’s bottom line.

In 2005, Hearst Magazines began to syndicate content to women’s lifestyle site SheKnows.com, republishing relevant, existing content from multiple magazines in their portfolio. Now, with the acquisition of global digital marketing agency iCrossing, Hearst produces and aggregates content on behalf of brands, including: Mastercard, FedEx, Toyota, and The Coca-Cola Company.

Get native advertising right

Whatever you choose to call it — sponsored content or native advertising — it’s here to stay. Custom content can be quite lucrative for publishers, especially those that keep their journalistic integrity top of mind. 

Take The Atlantic, for example. In 2012, facing a decade of declining revenue,the 155-year-old publication ventured into content marketing via native advertising and brand journalism.

While it may have missed the mark when it came to Scientology, the publisher certainly has made up for it with its revised sponsor content guidelines and more sophisticated native advertising and custom content programmes

In partnership with Mercedes-Benz, for example, Atlantic Marketing developed “Are we There Yet?” an original video series featuring four renowned industry leaders who are driving innovation in their fields. The content is aspirational, engaging, and high quality. It’s also clearly labeled as sponsored, making this a branded content win. 

Develop marketing services 

The Dallas Morning News looked around at other publications’ approach to brand integration and realised that its initial digital subscription offers were too “all or nothing.” That’s precisely why, in 2012, the publication launched 508 Digital Media, a targeted marketing service for small and midsized local businesses, featuring an array of services, including SEO, SEM, and targeted advertising.

Another unique service, Speakeasy, launched last year, offering brands a social media management platform on which they could create and measure campaigns. The service also grants clients access to all of the news media company’s archival content, allowing them to republish content relevant to their products and services on their own sites.

By also offering consumer content packages that meet use cases for unique audiences (24-hour passes, a limited number of articles free, etc.), the publication is seeing increases in digital subscriptions.

Reach new markets and platforms

Content marketing opens the door for publishers to develop relationships with brands in new international markets and across platforms. From Brazil to Vietnam, Web access is growing globally, thanks largely to mobile technology.

As publishers focus on digital innovation, they’re shifting towards a more global, comprehensive content strategy.

Pepsi’s Pulse platform launched the brand’s first global campaign, “Live For Now,” in 2012 on the brand’s homepage (disclosure: NewsCred works with Pepsi on its content marketing campaigns). The platform serves as Pepsi’s “pop-culture dashboard,” featuring concert live streams, breaking entertainment news, images, video and tweets populated with the most popular content every 10-seconds.

Pulse serves as a springboard for publishers seeking international exposure and brand alignment with Pepsi’s enormous digital audience. 

As a result, publishers like ABC News, The Huffington Post, and the UK’s Daily Telegraphnow reach a much broader audience. Within the first month, Pepsi.com’s homepage saw an 87% increase in Web traffic, double the amount of monthly page views, and a 2,700% percent increase in social referral traffic.

Be authentic, build your brand

Every publisher is distinct. Your reputation, coverage focus, online presence, and more make you unique.

Growing credibility and boosting your reputation is integral in these digital times. When diving into custom content creation and native ads, align your publication with brands names that your audience trusts and values. Getting a second, third, and fourth opinion within your organisation can’t hurt either.

I say this because reconciling brand values with the reality of making money can be a challenge. 

The Atlantic, as its apology for its Scientology debacle demonstrated, is stuck somewhere in the middle of this reputation versus revenue issue. Whereas other publications bank — literally — on the popularity of rumours and celebrities, The Atlantic had credibility to lose.

Some publishers, like The New Republic, are embracing digital as a new opportunity. As owner Chris Hughes described in a Financial Times interview earlier this year though, even with the recent changes, The New Republic remains true to its brand: “The thing that is staying constant is this focus on an educated influential demographic,” he told correspondent Anna Fifield.

This simple thought process is arguably where The Atlantic went off-script. Where it lost sight of its primary audience and served up content that was out of place, The New Republic has committed to remaining thoughtful of its base. Yet even without a “digital native” like Hughes at the helm, publications easily iterate on online strategies. 

Be adaptable

The term “content marketing” was largely met with blank stares on a recent international trip of mine, yet the demand for differentiation amongst content sources was everywhere. That demand puts pressure on publishers to get creative, especially in their relationships with brands.

As global audiences become more accustomed to picking and choosing between various digital publications, content marketing is poised to dominate the marketing conversation in every language.

My advice? Embrace the evolving content marketplace, maintain editorial standards while venturing into this new territory, learn from brand-driven friends, and always experiment and iterate.

No one’s operating in a vacuum anymore, least of all newsrooms. Editors and ad sales, brand managers and technologists — we’re all in it together.

About Shafqat Islam

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