The Unrestrainable Convergence of Brands and Media

A few months ago I attended #ThinkContentLDN, the London session of NewsCred’s global Content Marketing tour. One of the most relevant takeaways was understanding the future trends of media and brands. In fact, among other sessions, I enjoyed the revealing thought provoking panel on “The Convergence of Brands as Publishers”. That conversation led me to introduce one of the major trends in content marketing:  brand and media convergence. It’s a complex transformation, with many different facets.

Trend 1: Brands/Publisher convergence

When Eva Barrett, Philips spokesperson, was asked to add details to the strategy behind Philips and NYT partnership to create valuable content in the field of Healthcare, she said (more or less) that there was no more need for an agency to create contents. Last year, in fact, Philips became the official healthcare partner of the New York Times online. The content produced with the NYT studios will be then distributed to Forbes and the Washington Post but also on LinkedIn. Sure, Ms. Barrett confirmed that she is still working with an ecosystem of agencies and content partners. But technically, agencies could be out of the game. The direct agreement between the brand and the media speaks for itself.

The brand/publisher relationship has changed drastically over the last few years, and strategic content distribution is key. NYT, the Guardian, the Economist: different formats, different targets, different regional flavours, common trend: traditional publishers are creating new structures to make advantage of content marketing explosion (or to survive it). Parker Ward from Capgemini proposed that publishers could very well be the “agencies of the future”. Working off Parker’s prediction, Anna Watkins of The Guardian Labs was keen to establish that the organization keeps the content they produce for brands and the content they produce for journalistic purposes completely separate, like “Church and State”. I see this as a weak tentative to maintain distance from something that publishers are already embracing, in order to survive.

Trend 2. Media experts taking content marketing roles

A second trend is that way more editorial/media folks will take content marketing jobs. Marketing execs are going to realize a rather obvious point this year: you can’t just tell a seasoned marketer to “do content” and expect to compete in a Hunger Games-esque media arena. That’s not a knock against marketers; it’s just that writing, editing, videography, and content strategy are specialized skills. In 2016, I see a lot more brands hiring full-time editorial employees, tempting talented media staffers with the chance to double their salaries. And with many digital publishers suddenly squeezed for money amidst traffic and venture capital stagnation, expect a lot of folks to jump at that opportunity.

Trend 3. Brands acquiring Media/Publishers

An extreme trend/consequence is that more enterprises will consider purchasing media brands and blogger sites as a shortcut to building a content brand. As Content Marketing Institute commented several times, building a content platform takes time, patience, and focus. All three of which aren’t in the DNA of most brands. I have touched this point in a previous post, where I analysed Content Marketing (& Publishing) M&A being on the rise in 2016.

Still on the topic, in a recent and controversial post (“Why Brand need to acquire a Media Company?”) Joe Pulizzi from CMI sustains that with large enterprises flush with cash today, it seems only prudent to consider “buying versus building” as a viable option during this gold rush of content marketing. Jay Acunzo reacted stating tha the majority of journalists will never accept working for a brand because they still believe that telling stories for brands is like going to the dark side. Whatever your opinion is, the conclusion is that this is definitely a trend to watch in 2016.

Trend 4. Brands launching Content Studios and the growth of “Hybrid Marketers”

Finally, an increasing number of brands will be launching formal content studios/brand newsrooms. Content centers of excellence will explode.

Marketing teams will be re-shaped to reflect the increasing convergence of media, content and data; this will finally push brands to reform classic marketing teams and roles. Once fragmented disciplines (paid media, creative, analytics) will be combined to keep up with the evolving media landscape and audience behaviors. Consequently, this shift will give rise to the hybrid content marketer – those individuals with diverse skills that strategically connect the dots across the production, distribution and analysis of content (Jason Miller comprehensively defines this emerging profile in his last book).

Note. I found this post from Content Strategist eye opening. The featured image on top comes from there.

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