Studio One Networks, a pioneer in the online syndication business, has subtly repositioned itself into a supplier of “content marketing” to advertisers and agencies, and has hired a veteran of a major media brand, NBC Universal, to oversee its expansion.
The executive, Devin Johnson, joins Studio One as COO from NBC Universal, where he was general manager of Digital Works@NBCU, where he developed “private label” content for some of the Web’s biggest brand marketers -- several of which, like Procter & Gamble, also are major clients of Studio One.
In an interview with Online Media Daily, Johnson explained that while the distribution strategies differ -- NBCU was a destination, whereas Studio One focuses primarily on pushing the marketing content it develops for brands out to other destinations, principally bloggers and “long-tail” publishers -- the goal of tapping and leveraging compelling and utilitarian content on behalf of brands is the same.
Johnson, who will work with Studio One Founder and CEO Andrew Sussman, acknowledged that he needs to learn more about the distribution side of the business, but that the elements that worked for NBCU are the same ones that will drive the business for Studio One: Content that long-tail publishers want to pick up, and that brands want them to pick up.
Johnson describes it as a win/win, because the Internet has created content demand from publishers that expands every time a new publisher enters the blogosphere, not to mention even longer-tail individuals -- social media users -- who are apt to pick it up and distribute among their communities of friends.
Johnson says it starts with the content -- which must be integral, and created by journalists working with brand marketers to mine their content, not what the brand or agency deems working in a vacuum.
“We still hire journalists,” he says, emphasizing that while Studio One does utilize scientific analytics and methods for knowing which content will work best for a brand and its audience, it still requires the judgment and curation of human beings.
Johnson says that requires knowledge not just of the ways of online syndication, but understanding the elements of a brand, its integral content, and the audiences it is trying to reach.
When they come together, Johnson likens the result to a powerful ad network, except that instead of money changing hands (i.e., buying disaggregated user impressions), it’s simply content that is being exchanged.
He says typical campaigns can range from “very niche” audiences, say targeting CEOs or COOs of companies, to larger audience segments cable of reaching several million unique visitors.
“Companies were doing content marketing before people were using the term ‘content marketing’,” Johnson notes. What’s changed, he explains, is the sophistication of the people and systems that know how to discover, edit, match and distribute the right content with the right audience.