With marketers spending something like $40.2 billion last year on the custom content stampede, it’s no surprise they are also struggling for ways to differentiate themselves. Doing so is increasingly tough. For one thing, consumers are developing higher standards for brand-related content online. And for another, they are far less inclined to trust any brand messages. Matt Kumin, founder and CEO of PublishThis, a cloud-based content marketing platform, fills Marketing Daily in on what he sees as the big changes ahead, as brands try to find new ways to connect with content.
Q: In a way, every marketer these days is a digital publisher, even if they don’t see themselves that way. What are they doing well? Where are they weak?
A: Content marketing is just a way for brand to engage consumers, by offering them something that’s interesting and valuable. What’s changing is that it’s not about just hiring a bunch of writers to do stories that mention your brand anymore. The definition of content has expanded. It might be an article, a video, aggregating blogs or tweets. And increasingly, it’s the curation of all these things that interests people.
It involves speaking to them in a conversational way, that’s trying to give, not just take.
Q: How are companies trying to do that?
A: Some are hiring companies like us. We work
with MTV and Ziff Davis, as well as agencies and brands, and do speed aggregation. What would take a blogger hours to pull together, we do with a few native-language searches. But you’re seeing it in other ways, too, including the emerging role of the content marketing manager, someone watching the quality of content across multiple brands.
Q: So where do brands stumble? I feel like I constantly come across brand sites that look …dead.
A: Yes, Twitter and Facebook have changed the game. We live in a world where things have moved to a real-time feed, and people are reading less long-form stories. And they’re very mistrustful—they want information from multiple sources, not just one. So when consumers land on a page that looks like it hasn’t been updated in a week, they move on.
Q: What are the obstacles, within brands, to doing this right?
A: First, there is the issue of where the content will come from. Besides content brands create themselves, what related topics are trending right now? How can social media be incorporated? Second, very few brands come out of the publishing world. They don’t have the tools or technology. And finally, there’s the question of measurement. How can they optimize the site? How do they figure out what interests their customers the most?
Q: So is how much a company sells the ultimate measure?
A: Yes, but they don’t have to be at the bottom of the funnel, selling their product. They can be an authority. Retailers, for example, have an opportunity to take control of that shopping conversation, and with the right editing, create a valuable experience that gives people a reason to come back.
And it’s not just marketers who are communicating this kind of authority. We just signed up a bunch of law firms, for example, who are going to use this kind of content to position themselves as cutting edge. It’s the next step in keeping their customers informed and involved.
Q: Since brands spend so much on it, should we assume content marketing works?
A: Yes. Marketers, on average, spend over a quarter of their marketing budget on content marketing. Featured articles are big. eMarketer says 62.2% of marketers say they provide some of the best ROI in content.