5 Ways Publishers Can Capitalize on the Content Marketing Boom
Editor's Note: In September, Publishing Executive will present the Publishing & Media Lab as part of the Content Marketing World (CMW) conference in Cleveland on September 11th. The Publishing & Media Lab will explore how publishers can develop thriving content marketing services business and will feature leaders from Rodale, Adweek, and The Atlantic. Learn more here.
While there has been a good deal of buzz about the growing importance of content marketing for brands, some publishers may still be asking, “Can I get a piece of the content marketing pie?” The answer to that question is an unqualified “yes,” as publishers already have the skills required to operate effectively as content marketers on behalf of their clients.
In fact, publishers are equipped to deliver content marketing services because content marketing plays to publishers’ core strengths. (1) Publishers are well versed at discovering and telling great stories. (2) Publishers are established as content curators, a core component of effective content marketing. (3) Publishers have access to and can offer the kind of longer-form content that is most likely to have an impact. (4) And perhaps most importantly, publishers are already in the business of linking content to markets, the main purpose of content marketing.
Publishers Make Good Partners
Publishers are good partners for content marketers in the thousands of industries and niches that benefit from distinctive, high-quality content. A host of magazine publishers already offer some form of native advertising. Their clients benefit from access to an environment founded on high-quality editorial content and engaged audiences. This is a platform that can translate into greater effectiveness, increased loyalty, and sales growth for clients.
Of course, content marketing extends well beyond the bounds of native advertising. Publishers represent an important resource for marketers who have been tasked with “producing engaging content,” “producing content consistently” and “producing a variety of content.” In fact, those were the top three answers small-business marketers gave when the Content Marketing Institute asked them to name their biggest marketing challenges.
Marketers are on solid ground in considering publishers as part of their content strategy arsenal. Content repackaged or created anew to serve a target audience can be an effective marketing tool. Articles and collections offer value and persistence in messaging, and publishers can offer content for almost every occasion.
Consider the following four competencies that define publishing and make the content marketing opportunity ripe for the picking.
The Primacy of Good Storytelling
Earlier this year, Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, wrote in Adweek that “the most successful companies will be those whose superior content draws consumers routinely and repeatedly.” Adweek itself captured his idea this way: “Superior storytelling will win as ‘tech mania’ subsides.”
Storytelling skills are a core component of effective content marketing. Good stories engage the customer, demonstrate relevance, provide value, create or extend a relationship, and provide the basis for both understanding and commerce. Effective storytelling is at the heart of what successful publishers do. By understanding an audience, developing a voice and offering a point of view, publishing moves beyond communication. We provide platforms to tell stories that resonate long after the act of reading is done.
Good stories start with good questions. Writers and editors want to know more than “who,” “what,” “when and “where”—they also want to understand “why” and the “how.” Publishing’s best work tackles complex topics and makes those topics not simple, but relevant and comprehensible.
Storytelling archetypes are free for anyone to use, but most marketers still struggle to separate their near-term goals—selling something—from the value of building a relationship that starts with story. As content marketing partners, publishers and their editors can take a longer view, shaping a narrative that helps build lasting relationships.
Longer-Form Content Works
It’s a common refrain: No one appreciates long-form content anymore. People want snippets, factoids, blog posts, news they can use. Many publishers lament that the web is overwhelmed by short-form content.
When it comes to content marketing, though, longer articles often perform better. Long-form content gives content marketers opportunities to establish lasting value, meet client needs, and engage both existing and new customers.
The perceived value of longer-form content is demonstrated in search results. And Google’s algorithms favor long-form content. Social-media consultant Neil Patel found that longer-form content was more likely to take the top spot in search results. An analysis by serpIQ, showed that the average length of posts returned on the first page of a search result consistently exceeded 2,000 words, with the longest posts outperforming the somewhat shorter ones. Patel also noted that long-form content is more likely to be linked to from another site.
Publishers know how to create high-quality content that attracts and retains readers. They offer the kind of longer-form content that is most likely to have an impact, whether measured in clicks, shares, inbound links, lead generation, or actual sales. That expertise is equally relevant to content marketers working to attract and retain customers
Publishers Are Effective Content Curators
Across the various social-media platforms, marketers are constantly using content to reach audiences. Whether the content is owned or aggregated, it is effectively curated with a target audience in mind.
Again, this is an area in which publishers excel, as they understand how to develop and publish content that:
- Provides value to readers
- Creates opportunities to interact more frequently with those readers
- Showcases content depth in a given area
- Earns attention from target influentials, many of whom are known to publishers through their work
Curation—selecting, aggregating, and bundling content—can be an effective way to provide value, interact with prospects, showcase expertise, and gain visibility.
Linking Content to Markets
Publishers and editors have long been in the business of linking content to markets. The links they make are often intuitive, with successes backed by years of trial (and error). By intention, the voice of a publisher’s content is tuned to its audiences’ ears, making them adept at creating content marketing that similarly engages a marketplace—often much more so than their advertisers.
Likewise, understanding how audiences look for, read, share, and recommend content is in our nature, even if we haven’t always measured it. These days, marketing efforts are increasingly measured, and content marketing is no exception. Content marketers are looking to add prospects to a sales funnel, develop relationships, learn about their prospects, and ultimately sell them something.
Publishers working in the content marketing space need to understand how prospects find, consume, and respond to content on the web. While publishers know how to link content to markets, they also need to apply two tools of the trade: personas and journey maps.
Personas are detailed profiles of the potential buyer. A content marketing customer may have already developed these personas, which typically include a potential customer’s needs, goals, thoughts or feelings, expectations, and “pain points.”
Journey maps are the visual interpretation of an individual’s relationship with an organization or product over time and across platforms. The journey is mapped from the perspective of the potential customer, taking into consideration factors such as timeline, touch-points, frequency, and channels used.
In mapping a customer’s step-by-step journey, publishers and content marketers usually look upstream—to understand prior experiences—and downstream, after interacting with published content, to see what a customer does as a result of their interactions.
Personas and journey maps are not necessarily the tools publishers have used in their own content planning efforts, but they are not a radical change. In practice, they represent a more formalized version of the content strategies editors employ intuitively. Using personas and journey maps in a structured way helps publishers connect their content with what their marketing clients need.
What Publishers Should Be Doing Now
- Grow your understanding of how search, social, and referral marketing works.
- Measure what you do. It’s okay to start with simple measures and grow from there. Content marketers will expect you to track the effectiveness of what you do for them; it can help to show that you’re already doing that on your own content.
- Experiment with calls to action. While content marketing starts a relationship, the actions taken by members of a target audience are the test of that relationship. Think about ways that you can structure your own publishing efforts to motivate readers to take action. Mine the data you collect for insight.
- Nurture your own content structures. Don’t neglect the basics. Make your content shareable using “click to tweet” plug-ins. Optimize your sharing buttons to reflect where your target audiences are.
Brian O’Leary is founder and principal of Magellan Media Partners.
Related story: The Basics of Content Analytics for Publishers