Back in 2015, ESPN had closed its sports journalism destination, Grantland (1). Now that we look back at it, we can’t help but think about the news as a missed opportunity by brands like Puma and Nike to acquire the platform.
Grantland was a famous brand with loyal subscribers and significant traffic. Considering Nike, at that time, used to spend over 3 billion USD a year toward demand creation and advertising, the company could have purchased the asset (2).
Alas, Grantland is dead.
At that time, companies became obsessed with large billboard advertisements all over the town to grab attention. Such outdoor, old-school advertising was a response to increasingly crowded online channels like Instagram and Facebook ads.
After years today, businesses have found a new way to respond to crowded marketing channels: purchasing media companies and blogger sites as a shortcut to create a content brand.
And the trend does make sense as building a content platform from scratch takes a tone of time, focus, and patience, which are not in the DNA of most brands.
As more companies flush with cash today (Apple has more than 200 Billion USD cash reserve and can purchase The New York Times anytime!), it looks prudent to consider “purchasing vs. building” as a viable choice during the content marketing gold rush.
The Media World
Which one makes more sense, launching a startup media brand or purchasing an existing media brand or platform?
While publishers naturally get this evaluation, it used to be very unnatural among marketers.
Fortunately, there has been a push for brands to acquire media companies recently. In the past few weeks,
Coinbase is launching a media platform on cryptocurrency. Earlier this month, Apollo purchased Verizon Media. Simultaneously, Clubhouse is looking to hire freelance writers, and its biggest investor to date, Andreessen Horowitz, wants to open up an opinion space (3).
Last year, Microsoft had also acquired ZeniMax Media, indicating not only startups but legacy organizations are also joining the bandwagon (4).
Other news such as The Skimm exploring a potential sale and HubSpot acquiring Hustle also indicates the narrative of broader media ambitions across tech firms.
Well, a content marketing strategy has the potential to save your business’s digital marketing strategy.
The year 2020 made us realize that we need to evolve our business, marketing, and ourselves.
As Robert Rose from CMI Content writes (5),
“We are in the middle of the next normal. Our businesses and #marketing must evolve. We must evolve.”
Businesses are pivoting hard for content marketing in this new world, and there is a good reason for that:
- Acceleration of the trust’s devolution and usefulness of social media platforms
- Rising significance of first-party data in advancing transparency environment
- Evolution of paid media and disappearance of physical events’ sponsorships
- New technologies, challenges, and work-from-home operations
As you dive deeper into content marketing, you will realize that it is an integrated broader marketing strategy or a multiplier. It is an opportunity to make everything we do better.
When you look to short your integrated marketing approach, you can decide whether content marketing is a small fraction of your overall marketing strategy or a larger part. It is uniquely yours.
However, there is something interesting we would like to highlight.
As the coronavirus pandemic impact encourages businesses to assess their marketing, we see a larger opportunity for content marketers to play a leadership role in the overall marketing strategy. It can be the pillar of either an improved or newly created integrated digital marketing strategy.
Several marketing companies seem to have been stuck in a never-ending cycle of chasing internal experience and content requirements, which enables them to optimize their customers’ journeys in each separate layer (6, 7).
At present, for instance, in B2B marketing, the lead generation strategy focuses on customized content interactions to build trust over a long and complex purchasing journey. The need to stand out is what is driving the paid digital media. It encourages more differentiating thought leadership and less call to action.
B2B marketing is highly concentrated on targeting customized content to specific users. The influencer, PR, and analyst relations teams are focused on developing earned coverage of differentiating viewpoints across numerous digital channels.
However, often these activities don’t seem to be working well since the teams attempt to resolve customer’s journey’s each step rather than entirely connecting it.
On the other hand, when the teams take a cohesive, connected strategic content approach that creates value for customers, it seems to work well.
In other words, today, businesses need an excellent content strategy before they start an integrated marketing strategy.
And once we get to a strategic and foundational marketing approach, it can allow us to find the heart of an integrated and central marketing strategy.
Content Strategy: Foundation of Today’s Marketing Strategy
Historically, product management teams have been handling all the marketing, including digital. They create PowerPoint decks, brochures, white papers, and Excel-based calculators. They presented all of this in person, at conferences, at dinner meetings, and printed from emails.
But now, all but one of these delivery methods are gone.
Events? They are now webinars. New presentation? They are now Zoom calls. White papers? Now they need a better distributing system than email.
Businesses need these efforts to be more integrated than ever. The new D2C brand campaign is an effort to unify messaging and story under one consistent name. You can no longer lean on product names and follow the old patterns for feature and benefits recognition.
The idea of integrated and holistic marketing is still alien to some businesses (8). These companies have never taken an integrated approach that drives the target audience to a content platform, nurtures multiple audiences via an engagement journey, and aligns and integrates into the virtual events, PR, sales, and analyst relation destinations.
The goal is to run campaigns based on the content consumed and say goodbye to siloed landing pages, one-off campaigns, microsites, or leads pooled in spreadsheets.
Finally, every product manager is building his marketing plan today around four focused purposes in line with this content strategy, with each campaign (9):
- growing the pipeline
- increasing the pipeline’s investment value
- increasing the existing pipeline’s velocity
- increasing existing customers’ value
Based on these purposes, businesses can develop integrated and standardized plays to define whether the calls to action lead, how content is used, how measurement is applied, and more.
It is pretty interesting how quickly the foundation on story-first and content came together for businesses today. Instead of starting with how a brand can cleverly sell its benefits and features, the product marketers have started selling a differentiated and integrated point of view, and their products being the natural answer.
Making content strategy the foundation of the marketing strategy.
We are excited to see the benefits of content strategy as the framework for the marketing planning process.
Benefits of Acquiring Content Media
Content media acquisition can be wise for marketers and businesses since it allows them to have a dedicated content platform with the right skill and expertise to work towards their marketing targets. Such an advantage offers better results in faster timelines (10).
Additionally, it also helps in imprinting on consumers to win their trust and loyalty.
Other benefits of content media acquisition include:
Enhanced Capabilities to Gain Visibility and Tell Stories
In the digital age, it is vital to be seen. Brands can only grow if consumers know about their existence. Acquiring media companies means direct access to their content platforms and an already existing customer base.
When Adorama, a photography supply giant, acquired JPG Magazine, it got access to the latter’s content platform and its over 300k subscribers. It helped the firm attain a broader client base at a quick pace (11).
Such acquisition also allows businesses to market their products with tried-and-tested content processes, saving time and cost.
Capturing a Wide Audience in a Short Time
The route to starting everything from scratch can be pretty slow and painstaking for businesses.
In the era where things change in a matter of minutes, brands also need to be fast-paced. It is where content media acquisition comes in handy.
Companies can jump the queue and reach a wider audience by acquiring digital media partners and properties. When SurfStitch Group, a popular online retailer in Australia, acquired two small media companies in the surfing industry, it allowed the company to gain a wider customer base and emerge as a content leader in the space in less than a year (12).
Access to Content Marketing Experts
When you acquire smaller companies, you have the option to hire or partner with new people. The talent pool can efficiently help you meet your business goals. When you leverage their expertise, you can also reduce your hiring costs compared to building a content team from scratch.
Raise Customer Base Organically
Yes, acquiring a media firm is not an easy task. You will need efficient planning and excellent negotiation skills. However, if you do it right, it seldom fails. Apart from expanding your content creation capacity and reach, it will also help you organically increase your consumer pool.
With access to the acquired firm’s consumer base and marketing skills, it is natural that you will attract more consumers in the long term. We can also view it as an avalanche effect, helping you boost revenue and reach a larger audience.
Although it is a good idea to purchase media companies or blogs, some barriers would still prevent the boat from floating.
There are possibilities that any excellent media company with reputable and known writers would instantly lose that staff as soon as news breaks out that a non-media company has acquired them.
The argument here is that brands lack the historical track record for protecting and upholding editorial excellence and audience-first thinking; the prestige crucial to attract top creative talent (13).
While there are exceptions like Red Bull, Starbucks (14), and Marriott, it is still far from the rule that a brand builds standalone media properties where reporters can shine. It is rare for brands to think audience-first, and we need to remove this huge stigma.
Even today, most journalists still believe that telling stories for brands is similar to going to the dark side (15). Additionally, most brands consider the brand or their products as the story’s hero and do not think of the audience.
Regardless, as we discussed, more companies have started buying media companies.
HubSpot, a marketing automation firm, has a sales blog and a marketing blog. It believed it required an online destination exclusive for agencies. And instead of creating one from scratch, HubSpot had purchased the Agency Post blog, and voila; now it has an agency blog.
What Can Brands Do
When a business decides to buy a media platform, two things need to occur:
- Commit to editorial excellence and build audience-first content
- A space for the content team to operate without any interference
As soon as businesses make announcements about the acquisitions, they need to make public and big statements about their editorial missions and willingness to not intervene in what is already working.
Brands would require to overtly and plainly state that their goals are to “preserve and maintain the editorial integrity and quality that the team has developed.” Additionally, they must acknowledge that it is a unique move for them to acquire such an asset, one that the staff and readers have mixed feelings about.
They need to let everyone know that nothing is changing when it comes to the reader experience.
One of the most remarkable advantages of acquiring a media company is the change of monetization scenario. Instead of the requirement to drive paid content sales and ads, the acquiring company can look at various other ways to monetize the platform.
The “new owner” will also have more flexibility, allowing writers to be creative. And brands must communicate the same to the content creation team. Since publishers often feel the tension between page views and editorial quality (16). In addition, they also have to insert ads into the experience in ways that seem forced.
Brands can communicate that they will not face these issues since our model is not to sell ads. In short, the model remains the same, except for how the money is coming in. It is all about having adequate and comprehensive communication so that brands can recruit and retain creative talent as effectively, or even better than media companies.
Acquiring a Media Company
When it comes to acquiring a media company or blogging platform, you need to start by answering these two questions:
- Who is our target audience?
- Where does our specific audience hang out on the internet, including media sites, blogging platforms, and member-driven sites?
It should be pretty effortless to spot your top five or ten destinations, including online platforms, conferences and events, and even print magazines.
Now, it is the time to start research and seek:
- subscribers and engagement each company has
- the quality of their creative team and content
- valuable content assets the company offers to make it valuable for you
One can easily find this information by asking for the platform’s media kit.
And it is up to you and your company to make the final decision. As you think of acquiring a media company, you will need to consider how you can integrate it with your content marketing approach, which needs to be included in your responsibilities as a content marketing professional.