Three Emerging Content Marketing Trends
As with many a burgeoning trend in the media business that grows quietly before bursting onto the scene, content marketing finally may have arrived in the wider world's consciousness.
In June, The New York Times dropped a bombshell on the revenue model of legacy media when it published a paid post that looked more like its much-lauded 2012 multimedia story “Snow Fall” than a crass advertorial. The package, a magazine-length feature with animated graphics and documentary-style videos, was published to promote the new season of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black. [Editor's Note: A previous version of this story stated the incorrect programming company for Orange Is the New Black.]
While the Times left no doubt that this content was sponsored by an advertiser, users didn't seem to care much given the quality. Even journalists from the Times found themselves praising the native advertisement, which didn't explicitly tout the show's new season but offered stories of women doing or having done hard prison time, which the series is about.
It's no secret that television and radio lagged behind the media pack on the Web for many years, with too much repurposed broadcast and syndicated content. Now, stations are seeing interest from advertisers in publishing content that jibes with their own goals of becoming sources of local content that can't be found elsewhere.
As advertisers increasingly look to get their message out in the form of content that reaches their audience organically, media publishers are leveraging their expertise with audiences, editorial production and client services to become major players in the field. As a conduit for much of that business, we've seen some trends come and go, but three ideas keep popping up in all forms of media that we think bear watching by publishers as they develop their own native advertising programs.
Once the purview of editorial pages and magazine editors, the notion of an editorial identity and voice has spread rapidly in the digital age. Early pioneers of the blogosphere quickly discovered that building an audience required honing their message and narrowing their scope to users who were passionate about something.
Recently more and more brands — from Fortune 500s down to local boutiques and online portals — are aiming to build an editorial identity to complement, or even replace, their brand identity. The reason is simple: in the era of atomized audiences it's getting harder to reach customers and hold their attention.
Identity can be tricky for companies that aren't used to thinking in those terms, however, and the concept of editorial identity varies dramatically between industries. Technology companies, for example, have been quick to take their thought leadership on trends such as cloud-based computing and big data directly to C-suite executives who make major purchasing decisions.
Data company EMC, for example, promotes its technological savvy across its own multiple channels including several blogs, a community network and newsletters as well as on Forbes (an EByline client) and other media outlets. The firm stakes out an identity as a leading prognosticator on what executives can expect from technology in coming years.
If there's one clear dividing line between advertising and content marketing it's this: the latter aims to educate and inform, much like journalism does, by providing information that customers are seeking out on their own.
It's a pull strategy, instead of a push. It's about knowing what your customers' challenges are and meeting their need for information. News media have traditionally been those information providers, and though their role has shifted with the rise of the Web, they remain well placed as authorities with their audiences.
So how can media publishers meet the advertiser's need for information without compromising their newsroom's independence? Many are opting to create second newsrooms focused on native advertising. Sometimes these second newsrooms are internal — the Times created a branded content studio to power the Orange package—but more often than not branded content execution occurs outside the organization, closely managed by content experts and account relationship managers on the inside. By using freelance expertise, publishers can quickly scale up and down with client needs and attach the right talent to specific projects. For example, a medical writer for a healthcare company, a video team for a corporate case study or an infographic illustrator for a consumer-facing local business looking for social media impact.
Native advertising programs are fast becoming not just a new revenue source for publishers but also a locus of creativity and invention when it comes to content and presentation. From mobile apps to microsites to multimedia packages, publishers are responding to sponsors' needs with a refreshing willingness to try new tactics.