October 30, 2014

Content Marketing in the Publishing Industry

Think about your breakfast this morning. Tilt your eyes from the coffee and past the egg heap to the electronic device that was more than likely resting not too close to the coffee but near enough your finger that it could be handled if a notification buzzed. Tablet or phone, there were probably multiple relevant apps open: email, some habitual social app, an entertaining-but-informative content mashup, an industry-specific news app, maybe another social program. As unique as the information these entities provide, there’s a commonality straining through your morning information kick: none of it arrived via paper.

Old news, right? Maybe you haven’t exactly been too concerned about the death of traditional media. Even if you own a local news company, your online publication is today your bread and butter. Perhaps what you should be concerned about, however, is how traditional media is one of the original purveyors of content marketing: newspapers, magazines and other type publications knew that if the content beneath those headlines was not as succinct and enlightening as the headlines suggested that success would be an unreachable concept. And the advertisers! Let’s not kid ourselves that original content was always so ethically ad-free. Some of the best content our favorite magazines ever published was driven by an advertiser who wanted to give you something to read and a creative writer who knew how to serve it up.

Content is Key, Obviously

Ad-focused content discussions aside, current kings of the publishing sphere know that content marketing is not just a tool reserved for retailers and service businesses. Take The Atlantic, for example, a thriver – not survivor – of the internet shift who understood that digital and print not only go hand in hand but should perform together to produce original content that engages and informs.

So what can current print and online publications learn from content marketers? If you don’t have millionaire investors moving you forward, where can you turn?

Journalism 101

Start schooling yourself and your employees about the basics of your current readership and the one to whom you’re trying to reach. Think like a salesperson. Who is reading your content? What are they searching for that you can answer? Do they have small families? Small businesses? Are they gluten-free? What brands of clothing do they wear? In Journalism 101, you learned that it was important to know your audience. Now, our world is one of shifters, movers, growers and changers who get new phones every 2 years and try new restaurants on a weekly basis. Chances are, your audience lives a rapidly changing lifestyle, so look into every corner of it.

Complete your traditional demographic studies – and then get deeper. Pretend you live next door to the person who’s reading your publication – you very well may, after all.

Be Bold

…but not loud, and back it up. A journalist’s piece is only as solid as its source. If you are sharing the truth, don’t question it and don’t flaunt it. It will prevail among those who are seeking it, especially if you’ve written such content that seeks interested parties first.

That might seem like redundant advice to a seasoned writer or editor, but remember, this advice is web-specific. Bold, loud and generally unsupported information is the oxygen of the internet. Boldness is important, but separate yourself from competitors and news sites of ill repute by making it obvious that your content is well-researched, unapologetic and therefore, shareable by educated parties who will return to your publication for more dependable information later. Remember the principle of the great newsmakers: if your publication is reliable once, it will be so again. This is just as true in the digital era.

Quality, not Quantity

It deserves to be reinstated. The quality of the pieces on which you focus drives much more engagement than the quantity of articles you publish. Especially if you are trying to grow, your content needs to be solid before people begin sharing it. Just because your magazine publishes content 20 times a day doesn’t mean anyone’s absorbing what each article says. This is a publication-specific problem, however. If 20 pieces of quality content a day is the perfect size to match your audience, great – just remember that 50 pieces a day may produce just as much engagement, not necessarily more. It’s wiser then to have your writers and editors focus their time and efforts on producing what they already do if it’s successful. You can always grow with your audience.

Thick like Butter

Each piece of content is a landing page, so make sure it’s one that search engines want to lead people towards. Make it thick with content, not cluttered with useless design elements or ads from which your readers will not benefit (if there are ads, make sure they are beneficial – always).

Make it Look Good

All of this was written with a search strategy in mind. Your company is very different from other companies on the internet – you are not necessarily “selling” anything and you exist to provide information on a consistent and reliable basis. You may already have a name for yourself and a readership in place. But it’s not enough, is it? This is why a solid content marketing strategy works side by side with a solid search strategy. It’s also why you need to know your audience like dear friends. You believe that the information you share with them is something that they need as much as food and water. Media moves mountains, or so time has shown, so regardless of your publication’s focus, you have the obligation to provide information to which they will return.

There’s another concern to remember here. A successful overall content marketing plan should emphasize how your web design (inside and out) is directly related to how your content is consumed. It almost sounds like a no-brainer when you say it out loud, but this part is essential when working with content marketing professionals, so keep it in mind. You are a brand, after all. It must shine through in everything your readers comes across.

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