In an article on Min Online this week, Judy Franks of The Marketing Democracy suggests that traditional media companies are faltering because they don’t value content. Though at first it might seem odd to say that businesses built on content don’t value it, she has a point.
As she explains, pure content businesses like magazines are just one of three types of media options for advertisers. Beyond the “paid media” that advertising represents, they also have the “owned media” of their own blogs, Facebook pages, and twitter accounts, and the “earned media” of online word-of-mouth. Of these three components, the paid-media element seems the most vulnerable. If you have strong owned and earned media, why pay a third party for theirs?
Great content—at which traditional media excel—should be a compelling reason. But Franks thinks the industry has largely ignored it:
“Unfortunately, we have trained marketers through years of selling that the media are distribution conduits to audiences. We have talked about circulation numbers, demographic readership, readers per copy, and potential/actual ‘exposures’ to ads. We calculate economic value based upon opportunities to see (OTS). We have done little to sell marketers on the value of the content experiences, themselves.”
As a career editor I’m biased, but Franks’s analysis rings true. Though there has been plenty of lip service by the sales, marketing, and circulation types that largely dominate trade publishing, their real interest and belief in content has all too often been minimal. But now that advertisers no longer need publishers for distribution, what’s left to offer them? Content, of course.
With enough effort advertisers can create all the high-value content they need, but most do not have the experience or scale to do so. In theory, publishers still do. But in practice, many have been decimating the very source of their content—their editorial departments.
Content is the key to recovery for traditional independent publishers, not the impediment. Why don’t more of them realize it?