content marketing

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Is the Banner Ad Dying?

Online ad revenues remain on a hockey stick trajectory, clocking in at a record $9.6 billion in the first quarter of this year (yes, a bunch of this is search and video, but still). Yet the demise of the banner ad has long been predicted, and some say the deathwatch is imminent — possibly before the end of the year.

That banners aren’t working very well is common knowledge. You’ve seen the stories: You’re more likely to survive a plane crash/become a Navy Seal/summit Everest/be the next Beatle or Elvis than to click on a banner ad.

That consumers don’t interact with banners is no secret. In fact, it’s entirely possible that most clicks are robot and/or click farm generated. Then there’s the banner experiment the ARF‘s Ted McConnell cooked up, a totally blank ad (no copy, no image, no nothing) that saw interaction rates that in many cases exceed those of “real” campaigns.

The result of all this inefficiency, unsurprisingly, is severe downward price pressure on banners, much to the chagrin of online publishers. As one publisher put it in a recent conversation, “It’s more expensive to get readers, and then when we do we can sell them for less.”

Yet at the same time, publishers speak of a “voracious appetite” for display ads and banners. “As publishers we’d tell advertisers that we’re unique and special, but really we’re not,” one publisher confided just this morning, “When demand for banners was too high, we’d just rent an audience. We’d rent from Google, from telemarketers, or rent email lists. The performance isn’t that different, and the advertisers don’t really care.”

So let’s get this straight: Display advertising doesn’t work, it yields ever-diminishing revenues, and advertisers can’t get enough of it?

Houston, we’ve got a problem.

Read the rest of this post on iMediaConnection, where it originally published.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Where Does The Content Budget Come From?

Unless you work for a very unusual, or highly progressive, organization, it’s unlikely there’s a formal content division within the enterprise. The much-ballyhooed but rarely seen in the wild Chief Content Officer really doesn’t exist. Or when the odd one is spotted, the species is too rare and dispersed to reproduce, at least for now.

That’s why the recent research report I published, Organizing for Content, proposes six real world organizational structures for companies grappling with the need to feed the beast from an operational perspective. These models are deliberately presented in a non-hierarchical fashion. The point is to push companies into doing something constructive and collaborative to promote content collaboration, production, workflow, and strategy.

These organizational models matter for another very important reason: they can help create, or at least to flow, budget into content operations and initiatives.

The “Free” Fallacy

Content marketing operated under an enormous fallacy just a few short years ago. Marketers dove into content initiatives head first because they’re…. free! Blogs? Free. Facebook? Free! Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, all free, free, free.

For a delirious moment or two, content marketing seemed to be the marketing equivalent of an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet: perhaps a bit lacking in the quality department, but abundant and bountiful in every other respect.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

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Going Native

Native advertising.

Everyone’s talking about it, but what is it, exactly? It has something to do with ads that don’t look like ads, but rather provide a degree of value in terms of being content. In that sense, native advertising is certainly a form of converged media as it combines paid media (advertising) with owned media (content) – often with the goal of generating earned media (social interaction, UGC, etc.).

Yet brands have been paying publishers to run their own content since forever. Does that mean “native advertising” simply a neologism for what we used to call advertorial? Or branded content? Maybe it’s sponsored content?

If native advertising somehow differs from older models of advertorial, sponsored or branded content, where are the lines drawn? Does “native” necessitate some sort of technological framework to carry and/or distribute the content in question (à la products offered by The New York Times, or tech start-ups such as OneSpot or inPowered)? Does it mean a publisher’s in-house agency (think Buzzfeed, Gawker Media) was commissioned to come up with the creative?

Bottom line: The term “native advertising” raises more questions than it does answers.

The value proposition of native advertising is, however, clear in a digital environment of banner blindness and plunging clickthrough rates. Pre-roll ads are skipped or ignored, email subscriber rates are eroding. Given any kind of choice, consumers are saying a clear “no” to interruptive advertising.

Native advertising lies somewhere in bridging the divide between content marketing – a pull strategy – and plain, old fashioned advertising, which is interruptive. Somewhere in its definition is probably the fact of paying for space or time (the “advertising” part) is a fashion that’s “native,” i.e. organic, conducive to the user experience, non-salesy, and offers some sort of value in and of itself as an ad (entertainment, education, utility, for example).

Native advertising’s promise, therefore, is better performing ads – but only if metrics are defined that are “native” to “native.” DM goals likely don’t apply in this case. Highly customized ad solutions mean more revenue for publishers (and boy, can they use it now). Also, deeper creative engagements for agencies, and hopefully, a better user experience for consumers.

The fly in the ointment is that without a real definition of native advertising, it means anything you want it to mean. Or anything whoever’s trying to sell it to you wants it to mean. Confusion in the marketplace is not a good thing (though it can benefit certain constituents).

This is why, as a research analyst, my next project will be to define native advertising, as well as to map the landscape of products and technologies related to the practice. (I’m also part of an IAB taskforce that will work to define the term – it’s therefore important to note the research will be my own work, not that of a committee.)

As this project is just kicking off, I’d love to invite your input. What do you believe native advertising is? Isn’t? What are the important companies in the space? Please let me know, either via email or in the comments section.

I’ll report back soon. Watch this space!

A version of this post originally published on iMedia Connection

Image creditwww.bydewey.com

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Why Brands Must Orchestrate for Content

Why is content orchestration needed across the organization — all departments included, no exceptions? Here’s a recent example of a near-missed opportunity.

The client recently launched a content marketing initiative, one that’s rich in blog entries and videos around health and wellness. Six months into the program, which is governed by the social media marketing department, the metrics all look good: repeat visits, brand favorability, page views — so much so that the program will be expanded with a site redesign and new features.

One planned new feature is giving readers the ability to subscribe to email updates. The social team did some digging and learned the company is already working with a major email service provider, so the machinery is in place to add that ability.

This is where it bears mentioning that this particular organization is in a highly regulated industry. Marketing activities can only be conducted in certain states. Moreover, different brands of the parent enterprise come into play on a state-by-state basis. To say marketing for this organization is highly segmented is an understatement.

Clearly, because what’s at play here is content marketing, the sell is soft. In fact, it’s non-existent in terms of this particular content initiative. Yet it’s possible that could change, or that the company might elect to add a link, a call-to-action, or a promotional “brought to you by” message in the footer of the subscription emails.

All that’s possible, and more. Subscribers could be asked to indicate in which state they reside when signing up for the emails. Email append could be used on the list to segment subscribers on a state-by-state basis in order to insert the relevant brand name into the messages.

All these ideas are as possible as they are (for now) theoretical. Yet none were entertained by the social media department running the campaign. This would very likely be to the chagrin of the email division, or the direct marketing group, had they known of the plans afoot (which, of course, they do not).

This is only one recent, real-life example of why organizations must organize for content. Without cross-functional communication, coordination, expertise, and goal-sharing, companies are doomed to be mired in inefficiencies, missed opportunities, reduplicated efforts, and just plain not sharing the very high levels of expertise inherent in the broad array of digital practice areas.

How to organize is, of course, the question. Few enterprises have a formal content division or an executive expressly charged with overseeing content initiatives. Recently, research I conducted included asking 78 companies how they’re tackling the content issue. Only nine of them have, to date, made express content-related hires (i.e., people with titles containing “content” or “editor”).

Unsurprisingly, this leads to ad hoc content and content responsibilities that tend to be based more on factors like hand-raising than expertise or strategy. Case in point, here’s how one major brand has allocated content responsibilities:

Yes, models have emerged to address the need to synchronize, manage, coordinate, and optimize content strategy, creation, production, and distribution. Not all of these frameworks necessitate increasing headcount, a solution that at the majority of organizations is quickly filed under “easier said than done.”

Read the rest of this post on iMedia Connection, where it originally published.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

New Research: Organize for Content

More than a handful of brands publish more content now than a major media property such as Time Magazine did 25 years ago.

Despite the overwhelming and ever-increasing trend toward content marketing, and the need to continually feed an ever-increasing portfolio of content channels and formats, most organizations haven’t yet addressed content on either a strategic or tactical level.

It’s high time they did, and hopefully my new research report, Organizing for Content, will help. It provides both frameworks for coping with enterprise content marketing demands and a checklist of recommendations for organizational readiness.

Consider: The average organization is responsible for the continual content demands of an average 178 social media properties, to say nothing of a myriad of other owned media properties, from websites and blogs to live events.

Those few large enterprises not yet active in social media can easily serve five million email subscribers, as well as multiple millions of monthly unique visitors per month to their sites.

Yet the overwhelming majority of organizations don’t have content divisions in their org charts. Only nine of the brands we interviewed for this report (out of 78 stakeholders, also including content service providers and domain experts) have made explicit content hires, i.e. people with titles such as “editor” or those that contain the word “content.”

Who, or what, governs content internally? Responsibilities and oversight tend to be reactive, highly fragmented and distressingly ad hoc, as illustrated below. This highly typical diagram portrays how one major retail brand divides content responsibilities between divisions that are not necessarily interconnected or in regular communication with one another. This fragmented approach leads to inconsistent messaging, huge variations in voice, tone, and brand, and an uneven customer experience. Channel divisions themselves tend to be ad hoc, assigned more on the basis of hand-raising than any overarching strategic mandate.
Where Does Content Live Inside the Enterprise?
 It’s high time that organizations got organized for content. It’s only going to become more demanding – and harder – in the future.

Native advertising, advertorial, paid influencer, and sponsored content are just a few examples of the paid/owned media hybrids brands are exploring. Content must also be created for an ever-expanding spectrum of media, screens, and devices, ranging from smartphones and tablets to emerging platforms, such as augmented reality, Google Glass, and quite possibly devices like smart watches.

These new channels and platforms, coupled with a trend that de-emphasizes the written word in favor of visual and audio-visual content,  create new skill demands. “Hire a journalist,” a tactic many organizations adopted with the rise of blogging, now is in no way sufficient to address more technical requirements involving deeper knowledge of technology, production, design, and user experience. Requiring overtaxed and untrained staff to “do content” in their spare time is obviously hardly a solution.

Our research identifies six organizational models companies are using to address complex, cross-departmental content needs, and also contains a recommendations checklist for content preparedness. Please download the report (at no cost, we just ask that you share it if you like it), and let me know your reactions in the comments.

I’ll also deliver my findings in a webinar on Wed., May 29 at 1:00 EST. Please register and join us! 

Read and/or download the report below:
[slideshare id=19795236&doc=orgcontentv4-130423141546-phpapp01&type=d]

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Conducting Content: From Dissonance to Harmony

With today’s pressing content demands, every organization with a website, blog and marketing communication documents needs a content marketing strategy. Below are a few questions to consider when developing your own strategy.

  • Do you know everyone in your organization who creates and/or publishes content?
  • Where are your organization’s creative assets stored and managed? (“My Inbox” and/or “My Desktop” are not correct answers.)
  • Do you have an editorial calendar?
  • Do you have content specific metrics?
  • Do you have a channel strategy?

You’ve heard it a million times by now: every brand is a publisher. But no one said it’s easy to be a publisher. Publishing comes with a real need to “feed the beast.” And, that beast is hungry on pretty much a daily basis. Some brands, such as Red Bull, tweet up to 200 times per day.

Content demands have become near-constant and must increasingly be executed in real-time or near-real-time.

Yet, on the organizational level, content tends to be created and managed in silos. The social team does this, marcomm does that, and PR has its own concerns; meanwhile, community, customer support, creative and advertising teams are each on separate missions. The inevitable result is duplication of efforts, wasted resources, and inconsistent messaging.

At the same time, an ever-increasing number of channels and platforms demand both new skills and increase the need for cross-functional coordination and orchestration.

As an analyst, I’m about a week from publishing new research on how brands are organizing internally to meet the demands of content marketing, the result of dozens of interviews with senior marketing and content executives. My report publishes this month. Below is an advance look at the enterprise models we’ve identified for orchestrating content within organizations to ensure that it’s created in harmony with strategic goals, as well as properly resourced across departments and divisions.

More detailed descriptions of the various groups in the model are provided on MarketingLand, where this originally published.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Six Emerging Content Marketing Trends

Three related, clustered events constitute a trend. So, what have we here?

  • February 25: Mindshare appoints a content chief
  • February 27: Edelman names (a new, digital-focused) chief content officer
  • February 27: Facebook announces a content strategy fellowship
  • March 25: Sequoia Capital appoints a head of content
  • March 26: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt names its first chief content officer
  • March 27: Weber Shandwick launches a content marketing unit with 100 staffers
  • April 1: Havas signs a global chief content officer

Chief content officers have been de rigeur in media companies for years. Editorial web sites, magazines, newspapers, and broadcasters have them. Even Netflix boasts a chief content officer.

What’s staggering now is the alacrity with which agencies are now piling into the white-hot content marketing space. Not all of this is new, of course. Content divisions and/or practices have existed for some time at major players such as Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, and OMD. Digital shops, too, have content heads, as do (of course) the small cohort of content-only agencies.

The appointments above reveal these interesting takeaways:

Agencies that don’t have content practices are scrambling to get into the game

From the appointment of an executive with “content” in his/her title to blowing out an entire new division, both ad and PR agencies realize content can no longer be ignored. Clients expect content-related services and advisory. While mileage on the revenue models varies radically, there’s also heated competition on the PR and ad sides for a piece of the content pie. “We’re in a dogfight with the ad agencies,” is how one PR executive put it to me in a private meeting.

Content’s meaning is increasingly (if not almost exclusively) digital

It’s not as if Edelman didn’t have a content officer before appointing Steve Rubel to the role. His predecessor, Richard Sambrook, a former BBC editor, focused on editorial development. Rubel’s purview will be much broader, focusing on relationships both with digital media properties and technology vendors.

PR shops are in the media buying business

Historically, PR firms never, ever bought media. They earned it. In announcing their new content initiatives, both Weber Shandwick and Edelman have stressed that media buying and other forms of brokering will be very much part of what they do going forward. Media convergence and native advertising models make this evolution imperative.

Content is essential for startups

When one of the leading venture capital firms appoints a content head to help its portfolio companies develop and improve their blogs, social media, and video, it underscores just how essential a well-executed content strategy is to success — or failure — in business.

Hire-a-journalist: Will it suffice?

For the past several years, “hire a reporter” has been the mantra of companies eager to get a leg up in blogging or on social media channels. Now that content strategies are more technologically complex and digitally convoluted (converged media, native advertising, video, mobile) than “just writing,” it will be interesting to see what skillsets the next crop of content hires possess.

“Global” appended to content titles

This trend will become increasingly important with holding companies and larger agencies. Brands, too, are beginning to make content hires and shuffle the org chart to accommodate content strategy and execution. One of the biggest content challenges is the one facing large, multinational enterprises that must create content for a wide range of countries, languages, territories, audiences, and products. If any single cohort relies on outside content support, it’s multinationals. Holding companies possess on-the-ground global support and know that coordinated efforts can be a boon to this important new line of business.

This post originally published on iMedia Connection

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Organizing For Content

How should organizations organize for content? Are brands really publishers? Very few have hired people with “content” or “editor” in their titles. Fewer still (read: almost none) have content departments or divisions within the marketing or other organizations.

Yet, more and more companies are producing content like crazy. Also, multiple websites. Large corporations have tens of millions of visitors to their dot-coms each month, perhaps five to 10 million email subscribers. Then, there are blogs, YouTube channels and multiple social media channels on social networks.

Like journalists, brands are challenged to “feed the beast,” often on a daily basis, sometimes in real time. All this content isn’t just written word. It’s images, videos, charts, infographics… Put all of this together and the process, workload, and workflow demands become truly staggering.

Yet, most companies have adopted content strategies that amount to little more than asking employees already juggling the demands of full-time jobs to please produce content, too, in addition to their day-to-day duties. Not only does this approach not scale, but these employees aren’t trained in either content marketing or content strategy.

Something’s got to give, and I’m currently conducting research to try to learn how companies are making room for the demands content is placing on marketing, communications, IT, customer service and CRM.

We’re analyzing our finding now and will publish our report in April. In the meantime, the questions we asked dozens of interview subjects may perhaps help organizations to assess their own content needs as they relate to workflow, process, technology and partnerships.

If you’re producing content, start asking yourself these questions. And, please let me know if we left anything important out you’d like to see included in future research.

General

• What’s your role? Where do you sit in your company’s org chart? 

• Do you have a dedicated content department or division? (Since when? What spawned it? How were buy-in and budget secured? )

• If you don’t have one, do you need one? If yes, how will this move forward?

• Which team determines the main messages or story line for products and initiatives? Is it a function of product marketing, corporate marketing, and/or do you collaborate across departments?

• Where does/should content sit in your company’s marketing org chart?

• Do you have a dedicated content staff? How many? Titles? Level of seniority?

• What content are you/your group responsible for creating?

• What target audience(s) or product group(s) does your team’s content serve?

 

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

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Eight Ways Brands Are Screwing Up Content Aggregation

What’s the biggest problem marketers say they face when it comes to content marketing? Producing original content is No. 1, followed closely by the challenge of finding the time to actually produce content, according to the findings of a 2011 survey conducted by Curata.

Content aggregation is a highly proactive and selective approach to finding, collecting, organizing, presenting, sharing, and displaying digital content around predefined sets of criteria and subject matter to appeal to a target audience. It’s become integral not only to marketing and branding, but also to journalism, reporting, and social media.

Content curation and aggregation can take many forms, including feeds or channels such as on YouTube. It can appear on blogs or even be something as simple as the links you upload to social media sites such as Facebook. It can be an online newsroom, a collection of links, an assortment of RSS feeds, or a Twitter list. Whatever form it does take, it’s around a topic, or a subject, or even a sensibility that speaks to the knowledge, expertise, taste, refinement, brand message, or persona of the person, brand, or company that has created the particular content channel.

That said, there is, unsurprisingly, a dark side of content aggregation. In this article, we’ll look at the eight worst practices that are upsettingly common among brands.

When content aggregation goes wrong

Perhaps unsurprisingly, half of the worst practices in content aggregation touch on potential unethical, immoral, and even downright criminal practices that can — willfully or otherwise — be associated with content aggregation. You must understand what they are before launching a content aggregation program of your own.

Ethics

Plagiarism. Stealing ideas (or passages or quotes) and passing them off as your own is not “aggregation.” It’s theft. And fraud. Understand what plagiarism is and don’t do it. It’s that simple.

Lack of attribution. Give credit where credit is due, right? It’s important to clearly indicate your sources for a variety of reasons, ranging from transparency to credibility (both yours and theirs).

Un-fair use. Aggregating content comes with a set of obligations — ethical and moral, as well as legal. Respect copyright. Most editorial sites have published guidelines regarding reuse of their content. In most (but not all) cases, this can be summarized as allowing third parties to link to the full story or item with a headline and brief descriptive blurb or a quote of reasonable length. Most publishers are happy for the link. It increases both their traffic and their search engine visibility.

Other sites have more liberal or more restrictive policies. When in doubt, ask. Shoot over an email explaining what you’d like to use and why. With most websites getting the bulk of their traffic these days from social media, publishers understand the value of such referrals, and linking to content legally is much easier than it was in the days when many publishers though proprietary was the way to go.

The missing links. Aggregated content is valuable to you, just as traffic and search engine visibility is worth something to the site on which the content originally appeared. Be nice, as well as transparent. Link to the content source. Links are how the web works, after all.

Read the rest of this post on iMedia Connection, where it originally published.

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If You Build It, They Will Come (Maybe)

If you build it, they will come. Maybe. If they don’t, you’d better figure out the distribution part of content strategy.

Digital content marketing is undergoing a new wave of evolution. Initially, marketers felt all they had to do was build: a blog, a website, whatever. Throw in a little SEO and getting it “out there” was a done deal, more or less.

Social media only sweetened the deal. The ability to share and discover content on social networks far exceeds clunky, old fashioned mechanisms such as email and blog rings. (Anyone still remember blog rings?) Distribution of owned content got better and traveled farther. It was good.

Social distribution is rapidly becoming the next old(er) thing, while at the same time owned marketing content is proliferating exponentially. The distribution question has suddenly become a very real one for organizations investing in content creation.

The most innovative publishers are sitting up, taking notice, and helping content marketers come up with solutions to get brand content “out there.” Of course, they’ve long done this in print channels with advertorial and sponsored sections. Digital adds some new twists and opportunities for marketers and publishers alike.

Take the Huffington Post, for example. The publication recently announced a partnership with Goldman Sachs to launch a new (and upbeat) section on economic opportunity, “What Is Working.” Arianna’s been talking up the model over the past couple of weeks, but aside from that and a bylined column announcing the joint venture, there’s no disclosure — or even mention — of the sponsorship on the section. The initiative is based on Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women program. This corporate good-works initiative has itself generated a ton of content, all of it hosted on the firm’s own dot-com.

Another digital native publication, Mashable, has begun preaching the content marketing gospel. Founder and CEO Pete Cashmore waxes evangelical on the topic, and his points are valid ones. Content in the news stream is seen (right, Facebook?). Content is shared, while ads aren’t. It’s searchable. Content can be distributed as media. And if advertorial content isn’t visible enough on its own, it can be amplified with ads.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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