First, the bad news for publishers: Now that free online content is the expected norm, with only the biggest or best publishing houses able to establish a profitable subscription model, fewer writers are creating far more copy-per-writer than at any time in publishing history.
Now the good news for brand marketers: There has never been more opportunity to provide your own relevant and timely content.
What caused the publishing tsunami that dropped industry employment rates from 55,000 newsroom employees in 2007 to 32,900 in 2015?
I published a long-standing business magazine in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2007. Over the next couple years, publishers were hit with the perfect storm. More of us turned to online publishing (due in large part to the rising cost of print), and the recession hit advertising departments with the force of a tidal wave.
In Business magazine weathered it because we had built up the cash reserves to carry a publication when advertising contracts were cancelled and payments were delayed by months. Also key: we were willing to sacrifice employees to keep the business going. However, that 40% decrease in employment in our industry in less than a decade became the death knell for many a fine newspaper and print magazine publisher.
The bad news is that the aftershock is not yet over for publishers. The good news for brand managers is that more content than ever is needed, and businesses that can add true value-based (versus self-promotion) content on their sites will become a resource.
While historically companies would ply an editor with favorable “news” stories about their businesses (only to have them rejected), now those same stories can appear online and may even be replicated on customer sites and posted on LinkedIn.
The key, however, is to offer a value-added consumer-centric message, not a thinly-veiled selfie.
To make the best of the content-gap opportunity, consider these tips:
- Put a strong value statement, in print terms, “above the fold” – which today means above the scrolling point of a website or at the top of your social media platform. Why does your business exist – what problem is it solving? That should be instantly recognizable by your potential product or service consumer.
- Video trumps words. A recent Microsoft study of Canadian media consumption showed that even goldfish have longer attention spans than the 8-seconds which human beings are now willing to spend deciding whether content is worth our viewership. To offset the x-cue and keep your viewers onsite, create powerful short videos that tug on human emotions and that direct the audience to take action. For example, instead of just listing executive staff, or just adding a picture beside a name, create a short but impactful executive profile video about a human being who has outside interests and loyalties, too; a person who started or joined a business for all the right reasons. Then invite the reader to learn more about the business or product line. Make every section of any online platform work for you.
- Partner with publications and other outlets. After you develop a strong consumer-centric message platform, offer to share it (free) with content-hungry publications under the mantel of industry expert advice. Also consider cooperative site-sharing or reposting practices with vendors or sub-contractors to get as wide a reach as possible.
- Revisit the “do’s” and “don’ts” for website construction. Contact information should be instantly accessible. Keep copyright dates and staff info current. Edit photos for contrast and light.
In today’s world, marketing departments are doing more with less people, too, as company expectations outpace budgets. Going back to these basic principals in 2017 will help you extend both reach and impact.