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Why Every Business Now Needs to be a Media Brand

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Jay Dillon

Director of Strategy and Creative at Inbound Experts
Jay is a digital marketer and producer whose creative and technical skills have developed digital brand strategies and sales campaigns using a range of complex internet applications from stand-alone websites through to Facebook API integrations.
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What does your brand have in common with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian?

If you’re doing inbound marketing the right way, quite a lot.

“But wait,” you object, “I don’t publish the news! I sell widgets/services/[fill-in-the-blank]! That’s totally different!”

What’s becoming apparent to many though is that in today’s world of marketing, every company should be a media company.

To understand why, let’s take a look at the current situation in the media industry and how it differs from years past.

The Current State of Media and How We Got Here

The media industry began operating on a fairly simple concept: large, trusted publishers built an audience of readers, viewers or listeners who regularly consumed their content. Brands would then pay these publishers for the right to get their company’s custom content in front of their audiences, usually in the form of a slick display ad, a catchy jingle, or a TV commercial.

Good quality advertising content would entertain and/or inform consumers, making them come back to the publisher for more content while also piquing their interest in the brand that created the content. This was a win-win: publishers won favour with their audience, while brands got more people interested in what they were selling. Everyone was happy.

The Internet changed all that.

Now, anyone with an Internet connection and a smartphone can get their content in front of millions of people in a few seconds. The barriers to publishing are at an all-time low.

In the early days of the web, these lowered barriers meant an onslaught of the old-school style of advertisement. Who doesn’t remember the glory days of the pop-up ad and the bright flashing web banner?

But the saturation of these kinds of advertisements quickly became an annoyance for consumers. From 2000 to 2012, click through rates for banner ads absolutely plummeted, going from 9% to 0.2%.

Native Advertising: An Incomplete Solution

More recently, companies have started employing a tactic called native advertising. The business model for native advertising is exactly the same as traditional advertising: the only thing that differs is what the content actually looks like.

Native advertising, as the name implies, is designed to come across the same way that editorial content does. As Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi puts it, media companies are using native advertising to trade on trust. With more content out there than ever before, successful publishers know that they can leverage the trust their audience has in their specific messaging as a way to improve revenues from native advertising sales. Brands that publish native advertising, as Pulizzi puts it, are hoping to leverage that trust and transfer it to their own brand.

The problem with native advertising is that many of today’s consumers don’t trust an ad that is designed not to look like an ad. Research shows that two-thirds of content consumers felt deceived upon learning that an article or video they were engaged with had been sponsored by a brand. More than half of all consumers wouldn’t trust native advertising content no matter what it was about.

And if brands risk coming across as untrustworthy because of native advertising, publishers have it even worse. One wrong piece of sponsored content can deal a serious blow to the reputation of a media outlet, as it did to The Atlantic in 2013, when the highly respected American magazine was widely slammed for running an overly self-promotional piece of sponsored content about Scientology.

Native advertising has its place, and when executed correctly can be effective. But if you want to truly reap the benefits of inbound marketing, you need to take control of your own publishing.

Why You Should Be a Publisher and How to Get Started

Internet entrepreneur and marketing thought leader Gary Vaynerchuk sums it up concisely when he writes how companies no longer need to make a big investment to tell their story. Vaynerchuk says that every company, in addition to their primary offering, is a media company.

Accordingly, the most successful brands are the ones who have taken control of their own marketing destiny by becoming publishers.

And these aren’t small brands: huge corporations like IBM, Telstra, Coca-Cola, and Bupa have all established their own publishing outlets in recent times.

But you don’t need the seven or eight-figure budgets that these companies have if you want to successfully become a publisher. Here are three ways that you can get started publishing valuable content to your target audience, even if you’ve never done so before:

  • Learn more about your customers. The first step to publishing content that connects with your audience is to find out about them. This could be something as simple as taking a long-time customer out to lunch and asking them a few questions, or creating a survey to send to your database.
  • Relate your brand to current events. In the information age, people are attracted to what’s happening now. If you can tie your company in with a current event without it feeling forced, it represents a great publishing opportunity.
  • Choose the right channel. Would a blog be the best way to reach your audience, or should you create an online magazine? What about an email newsletter? Or a series of videos? Or a podcast? Think about how you can best get your message across to your intended audience and focus on one platform until you master it.

However you choose to do it, acting like a publishing company is one of the best ways to build audience engagement and harness the power of inbound marketing to achieve the results you want.

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