Turn your media brand into a meeting place

Most publishers – whether print-based or online – are rightly obsessed with content.  Not surprising, it’s the tangible output of their efforts.  It’s easy to assume that a media brand is simply the sum of the content it creates.  But that ignores the magic of media brands – that their content brings together an audience of like-minded people.  In the old days, this simply provided a handy target group for advertisers, but now that technology allows the audience to answer back, it also provides both a fabulous source of new content, and also a value in the connections between the members of that group.  Now that there are many other routes for advertisers to reach audiences, and it is harder to charge a premium rate for content alone, I believe that the future of media brands is linked to their ability to turn their brand into a meeting place, and drive real value from their contributions and connections.  It’s important to let go of the temptation to broadcast, and simply host the conversation, rather than hogging all the airtime.  Here’s some practical ideas for how to transform your media brand, and importantly, create value.

1. Encourage user contributions

Make it easy for users to contribute their own words, pictures, video etc to expand your editorial content.  By allowing them to comment on each other’s content they can build new relationships as well.  On www.photoanswers.co.uk we invited users to upload their own pictures to be rated and commented on by other users.  In a few months we had 70,000 images and the gallery section drove half the traffic for the site.  www.walkingworld.com encourages its users to upload their own walks to the site, and has built an extensive library and a lively community.

2. Allow (free) user to user ads

Back in the olden days I published Yours magazine, for the older generation, and we ran a newsprint section called Friends of Yours which allowed readers to search for hard to find items, and even make new contacts and find love. More recently at www.yourhorse.co.uk we set up a free horses for sale facility which was a great driver of traffic.

3. Host Q&A

In expert enthusiast communities and professional groups, there are plenty of self-taught experts who are happy to share their knowledge, and also plenty of newbies who have tricky issues to solve.  A parenting site, www.askamum.com, was launched based almost entirely on mums posing questions that were answered by other parents a little further up the experience curve.  Horse answers at www.yourhorse.co.uk filled a similar role with horse owners swapping tips on care, feeding and behavioural issues and building relationships in the process.

4. Charge for events and training

B2b publications have long taken the approach of producing core content at a loss, but offering highly priced in-depth conferences, discussion-based events and even training to their most loyal customers.  New Media Age and E-consultancy are particularly adept at this with a wide range of briefings, supplier showcases and training courses.  But the approach is equally relevant to consumer markets, particularly where people are making complex buying decisions or acquiring tricky new skills.  Your Horse Live – the event – has been a lucrative extension to the magazine and website, allowing readers to question experts, watch professionals demonstrate their skills, and buy specialist products.

5. Facilitate networking

Many consumer publications have long run dating services, in print, mobile or online.  B2b publishers are also offering events where the value is in making professional contacts rather than in listening to pure content.  By creating a premium members group, you can offer the chance to build relationships with other people who are equally expert or influential in a particular field.  Whilst it is harder to charge for online networking, people seem more accepting of paying to attend a live event.

I’d be interested to hear of any examples you have of media businesses turning their brand into a meeting place.  Join the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in to swap your ideas on this topic with other media owners.

Penmaen Media creates practical digital media and marketing strategies – for media businesses and those organisations whose online activity is turning them into publishers.  Please contact us for an initial discussion on how you can turn your media brand into a meeting place.