Why content is marketing

Newspapers are frantically experimenting with paywalls for online news content, trying to plug the digital dam when the combined force of Google, Twitter and the BBC is bearing down on the far side.  I’ve previously argued that news has always been a loss leader: broadcasters have cross-subsidised news and documentaries with drama and light entertainment; newspapers have cross-subsidised with lifetyle copy and related advertising.  These media behemoths need to pick up some lessons from b2b publications, and also from the marketing departments of non-media products and services who are increasingly embracing social media.  Here’s some steps to making the switch to thinking of your content as your marketing…

1. Determine what content is valuable in your market

Business publishers are realising that the news and industry gossip element of their traditional print offering is “nice to have” but isn’t crucial to their business.  Research data that provides insight to an industry or sources of leads for new business are more valuable and probably worth paying for.  David Gilbertson expounded this view at AOP when he talked about “intelligence” rather than “information” being of value to a business reader.  Emap titles are following this approach – with Meed leaving news and forums free, while analysis and research is paid.

2. Understand that free content is a source of new customers

Meanwhile, outside the traditional media world, marketers are increasingly realising that by creating relevant free content they can attract an audience.  Ehow attributes its rapid growth to the creation of free content to attract new users.  It’s as effective as PPC in driving traffic, and when the PPC budget is spent, the content keeps working.

3. Change your mind about “free” content

Media owners need to shift their mindset; instead of bemoaning the fact that they cannot charge for much of their online content, they need to see their ability to create a free offering as an opportunity to market their paid product to a wider audience.

4. Target the new entrants with different content

Think about new entrants to your market, rather than your traditional audience, and purposefully create relevant content to entice them in.  Fall-line, a top-end magazine for ski enthusiasts, uses its web presence to appeal to beginners, who can be put off by the advanced appearance of the print product.  Realise that you will have to create different content to your traditional media products – and this may mean a different team.  It’s as valuable a job as the paid content, as it is ensuring the future viability of the business.

5. Build a path from free to paid content

Having worked out (step #1) what is valuable to your core audience, make sure that you carefully promote your paid content to the new entrants your free content has enticed in.  Test what works – this is another area of focus for David Gilbertson at Emap.  You may even be able to sell them offline products such as events, training, or even a print publication…..

If you know of media businesses that are effectively using content as a marketing tool, then do let me know.  Join the Specialist Media Network on linked in to share tips on this topic and others with other specialist media owners.

If you’d like some help developing a content marketing strategy for your media brand, contact Penmaen Media for an initial chat.