Publishers as Content Marketing Agencies

By | December 17, 2012
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Traditional publishing revenue is on the decline, as companies pull ad budgets from newspapers and magazines, and shift to online marketing strategies. In fact, according to Pew Research, “ad revenues are now less than half what they were in 2006” for print newspapers, causing a continual decline in media company profit margins.

Pew Research

As a result, many publications have been forced to close their doors completely, downsize staff or reduce the frequency in which they publish in print. (We’re seeing this recently in Cleveland, where there’s talk that the daily Plain Dealer may go to a three-day per week publishing schedule.)

Simultaneously, content marketing is on the rise, and growing at record levels. According to a Custom Content Council report:

  • Content marketing spend grew 13% in the past two years.
  • 56% of organizations now outsource a portion of their content production.
  • When working with outsourced firms, the average annual spend is $987,417.

The Opportunity for Publishers

Some publishers see this growth of content marketing as a golden opportunity—a way to add revenue streams and make up for decreases in ad spend. Their built-in distribution networks and staff of expert copywriters make them viable contenders to existing marketing and content agencies.

As Andrew Davis (@TPLDrew) explained in a recent Insider Series: “These publishers are masterful content creators, and they are able to charge a premium for the services they offer by leveraging their market research, existing distribution platforms, and even the talent from their editorial teams.”

One such example is the Economist, which added content marketing to its repertoire to meet client demand and expand revenue. As quoted in DigiDay, Elena Sukacheva (@elenasukacheva), VP of content marketing and strategy at the Economist said: “In the past, we were acting more like a combination of journalist and analyst who provides research in a well-written form, but now we moved to the agency forum. We work with clients very early and consult them on the type of communications to create.”

Transformation Challenges

While content marketing is definitely an opportunity, there are some challenges that publishers would need to overcome in the transition. The most prevalent is the differences in objective, journalistic content versus branded, marketing content.

Media companies will need to train their staff to create content that is integrated into a larger marketing strategy, meets the brand guidelines of the client, and is results-oriented (i.e. drive leads or sales).

The other challenge will be in maintaining a balance between real journalistic reporting and branded content—if both will be distributed via the same outlets.

What It Means for Marketing Agencies

As more publishers assume the role of content marketing consultant, Pete Caputa (@pc4media), director of channel sales and marketing at HubSpot thinks that agencies should be developing their own media to compete, considering publishers already have these distribution platforms in place.

Along those same lines, David Iwanow (@thelostagency), SEO manager at Amnesia Razorfish cited a “slow increase in brands and agencies buying existing forums/blogs to ensure they have an instant audience for their content syndication,” in Content Marketing Institutes 2013 Predictions.

Both examples highlight the importance of having strong distribution legs in-house, in addition to phenomenal content production capabilities.

Interested in more on the topic? Check out Paul Roetzer's (@paulroetzer) slide deck from the Alliance of Area Business Publications' event below.

What do you think? Will publishers become agencies? What challenges will they face, and how does it all impact existing marketing and content agencies? The comments are yours.