You’ve arrived at a blog about transforming the companies that publish newspapers. And it’s a blog with an unorthodox point of view.
Here it is: News will not save you.
Why not? Because the disruption that’s pounding newspaper companies is not about people Read the rest of this entry
For those of us in traditional media, it’s the source of our problems, and it’s also the uncharted space of our new opportunities.
With bandwidth rising toward infinity and costs falling to near zero, it’s enabling all sorts of new content models to eat our lunch. “Free” digital bandwidth has enabled all of our disrupters, from early ones like Craigslist and Facebook and to newer ones like BuzzFeed, Instagram and SnapChat. And more will keep coming.
A disrupter that’s rising fast right now is content marketing.
That’s a broad and somewhat nebulous term, but let’s define it this way: It’s the practice of developing and distributing engaging content on behalf of a brand or a business. The object is to catch and hold a target consumer’s attention, hoping to convert him or her to a user of the brand or business.
It’s important to catch the difference here. “Advertising,” in the pre-digital era, had exactly the same purpose as “content marketing,” but it was confined to messages of tiny bandwidth.
“Advertising” was the practice of cramming a high-impact brand message into a very small print or broadcast space — business messages in haiku form. “Content marketing” is the practice of developing compelling business messages without any space limits.
This freedom is so new that most brands and businesses haven’t yet realized it’s available. They — and we, who operate advertising-based media businesses — are still thinking in “advertising” mode.
And this freedom is so new that the forms and functions of content marketing are still being invented. Already it includes an amazingly wide array of tools. It’s not just the obvious things like articles, blogs, videos, white papers and emails. It’s also contests, polls, surveys, games, puzzles, social content and much more.
The goals of content marketing campaigns vary widely. Some want to amaze people or make them laugh, some want to be educational, some want to be useful to people in specific situations, some want to be fun. Most are designed to be shareable, so the content spreads to larger audiences.
With all these possibilities, this is a time of crazy creativity on behalf of brands and businesses. Businesses are only now beginning to realize they can develop content and experiences that people will consume of their own free will.
Today, the leaders in content marketing are mostly national and international brands. But this is just the beginning. Content marketing will inevitably go local, because infinite bandwidth is just as much local as national or global. Local businesses will catch on as they see national players doing it.
One of the early content marketing pioneers was Australian energy-drink maker Red Bull. Targeting young males, the company chose to associate the brand with intense activities and extreme sports.
Its site, www.redbull.com, was one of the earliest examples of all-out content marketing. It was, and is, entirely focused on engaging its target audience with high-energy content and creating positive associations with the brand. They create and aggregate large amounts of content to entertain and amaze their customers.
More recently, BuzzFeed.com has been showing what’s possible when a publisher site decides to help brands and businesses do creative things with content marketing. Scan down their page looking for posts labeled “sponsored by” to see examples — some created by the brands and some created by BuzzFeed on behalf of the brands.
Just recently, Marriott International announced a big new content marketing initiative. The worldwide hotel chain has launched Marriott Traveler, a website designed to be a city-specific resource for travelers looking for fun and enjoyment.
In a recent report on the new venture, David Beebe, Marriott’s vice president of creative and content marketing said, “We want to provide that value first before trying to sell them something.” But clearly, selling them something is the purpose of this sizable new Marriott investment.
There’s the rub for traditional media. Many forms of content marketing are, and will be, attempts to skip around existing media and reach target customers directly. Redbull.com and Marriott Traveler aim to do just that.
But smart traditional media will realize this is actually a huge new opportunity space. Before local and regional businesses start mobilizing to do content marketing, we need to step up and present them with great solutions. We can show them they don’t need to do it themselves.
A recent study reported by eMarketer.com showed that lots of brand marketers need help with content marketing. Creating the content looks to them like the hardest part, followed by lack of strategies and lack of budget.
We know how to create content, but the kind of thinking that’s needed for effective content marketing doesn’t (and shouldn’t) live in our newsrooms. We need to create separate content marketing units to figure out the creative strategies, the right content and the best distribution channels for our local businesses.
At Morris Publishing Group, we’re moving quickly in that direction with a small skunkworks team. They’re working to figure out how we can develop a scalable solution that concentrates expertise that in one place and can serve businesses across our newspaper markets.
If you’re in a traditional media company, I urge you to do the same.
Content marketing is not a fad. Advertising is now being liberated from the artificial space constraints of the pre-digital era, and it will never go back.
We need to be in the vanguard, leading local businesses in the discovery of creative new ways to engage customers in our markets.
It’s the Year of the Millennials, according to Pew. In 2015, at ages 18 to 34, they will surpass Baby Boomers in the U.S. to become the largest living generation. And a major new report by the Media Insight Project, just released at the NAA mediaXchange, sheds a lot of new light on their consumption of news.
The report (pdf, html) emphasizes the bright side, stressing the finding that most Millennials do value news and consume it regularly. But the most worrisome finding for newspaper companies is that they rarely go to traditional news providers to get it. We are far back in the loop, when we’re in it at all. Read the rest of this entry
Media folks, can we all agree on this statement?
- We’re in the audience business.
If you disagree, we need to talk, and we’ll do that in a minute.
But first, here’s the nut graf:
As an audience business, we’re overdue for a drastic rethink of what we do. Too often, we’re still doing 20th-century audience thinking amid the starkly different realities of the 21st century. We’re getting pounded on the audience front, and we have to figure out what audience strategies will work in this new environment. Read the rest of this entry
In the local media business, whatever hurts retailers hurts us, too. They’re feeling a big hurt right now, and we need to help them fight back.
That big hurt is a steady and continuous decline in store traffic. This means loss of sales, and that leads nowhere good for them — or for local media.
- Figuring out how the business has to change.
- Changing behaviors in the organization to get the new things done.
As most people in the newspaper industry can testify, both of these are difficult and relentless. There’s no “one and done” in a disruption as massive as the digital revolution.
And, unfortunately, success at No. 1 is no guarantee of success at No. 2.
Over last three years, I’ve blogged frequently about No. 1. This time let’s look at No. 2. Read the rest of this entry
What does the local media company of the future look like?
At this point, the answer is pretty clear. There will be two kinds of media companies:
- Those that continue to focus on their traditional media channels — newspaper, broadcast television channel, radio station(s) — and therefore shrink along with the advertising spending on those media.
- Those that morph into local media houses that can connect any advertiser with any audience, through platforms, technologies and channels they own or don’t, to win dollars that are moving into digital advertising and marketing.
Let’s look beyond the waves of media disruption we’re experiencing these days. Let’s try to imagine the end state, when media disruption gets done.
Wait … will it ever get done? Yes, I think so — at the time when virtually everyone on the planet, during every waking moment, has instant access at will to virtually the entire body of human knowledge. (Maybe in sleeping moments, too.) Read the rest of this entry
If you’re old enough to remember Saturday Night Live in its glory days, maybe you remember the hilarious sketches set in the Scotch Tape store at the old mall.
The bit was centered on, and got its laughs from, a ridiculously narrow business model centered on a single product, sold in a retail location that was no longer the cool place to be. (I’d love to link to a clip here, but I couldn’t find one. NBC must be closely guarding its copyright.)
Those sketches came to mind this week as I was trying to think of a metaphor for the newspaper business and its relentless concentration on news. News continues to be our industry’s central purpose and the heart of its business model for attracting audiences.
I laughed out loud when it occurred to me that we might be well on the way to becoming the Scotch Tape store, or “Scotch Boutique,” as they called it. But the idea is as painful as it is funny. Read the rest of this entry