Each month we bring you the best bits of the online marketing bunch to delight, educate, and funny-bone-tickle you. This month we update you on the most important document the online marketing world has seen this year, so grab yourself a cup of coffee and a banana to snack on and settle in for some learning.
We also give you an insight into the resurgence of print that has seen niche online publishers reversing the digital trend and turning to branded magazines.
To finish off, we share some differentiation inspiration from our new favourite blog and a bunch of content marketing innovators.
So, read up, do better and thank us later…
The Document Everyone In Digital Marketing Needs to Understand
On the 16th of May, Buzzfeed Business published what may be the most important piece of online content you need to read (or at least understand) this year.
The New York Times recently removed Jill Abramson from her position as Executive Editor, allegedly prompting an internal stakeholder to release the remarkable document in question to Time’s competitor Buzzfeed.
The 96-page internal report, simply titled ‘Innovation’ was commissioned by Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr to ask the hard questions about the publication’s place among its peers as it transitions from
“a newspaper that also produces a rich and impressive digital report to a digital publication that also produces a rich and impressive newspaper”
It’s incredibly rare for a document with this level of candour to reach the harsh light of the general public’s computer screens.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, the Times have spent six months, a bunch of cash and the Newsroom Innovation Team’s time (including Sulzberger Jr’s son) on compiling a report that documents almost all of the problems that the rest of the world is having with the transition from offline to online publishing/marketing/living.
Flickr Image Courtesy Karen Horton
Mashable reports that a Times spokesperson described the document as follows:
“It is a candid assessment of our digital transformation with insightful recommendations, many of which we have embraced and are working to implement.”
The insights make us all feel a lot better. If the NYT is struggling with the same stuff we are, then we aren’t all the digital dunces we feel like. The analysis of these problems and the subsequent recommendations are almost as valuable as… well they’re invaluable. This insight is unique.
Anyone involved in online marketing or publishing can and will learn something from this NYT report. So grab your reading glasses, here’s the lowdown…
Flickr Image Courtesy Phil Roeder
Fast Company gives you a quick intro to the event, bringing you up to speed with the context surrounding the leak to help you understand why this is such an important deal.
Co-founder of Atlanta digital agency Simple Tiger Sean Smith speculates that the Times leaked report “may be genuinely one of the key documents of this digital media age”
Harvard media commentator Neiman Journalism Lab gives us a sharp analysis of the highlights of the report. If you’re after a truncated version with a bit more substance that tells you why this thing is so important, hop on over to Joshua Benton’s post.
For the most part, The Times report has been publically lauded as a frank, honest and accurate assessment. Criticism of the findings has been few and far between. Kind-of-competitor Vox is one of the publishers mentioned in the report as an online innovator, prepared to experiment with digital formats. Their take on the Times report is relatively contrarian, offering a well-informed (albeit slightly biased) critique. If you’re after a little balance to the overwhelmingly positive debate, check this one out.
Better yet, if you do have a half hour to spare in the gym, on your morning walk or while you travel to work, listen in to Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi from Content marketing Institute discuss the ramifications of this report in glorious detail on Episode 27 of their PNR This Old Marketing Podcast.
If you want our take, there’s not a whole bunch more we can add to the analysis that hasn’t already been said. We did pick out three crucial quotes from the report that have an eerily sage reminder for our online marketing strategies.
1. Repurpose Your Content
Content Marketing is an approach. If you’re doing it right, you’ve got an ongoing program, not a bunch of related campaigns. Invest the time and money up front to bake content marketing into your business. Bed down procedures and systems that give your team the time to focus on creating content to move mountains (and profit forecasts).
“We have a tendency to pour resources into big one-time projects and work through the one-time fixes needed to create them and overlook the less glamorous work of creating tools, templates and permanent fixes that cumulatively can have a bigger impact by saving our digital journalists time and elevating the whole report. We greatly undervalue replicability.”
2. Own Your Audience
Consistent, quality content that specifically satisfies a niche is a winner every time. If you own your audience, email becomes a more-than-welcomed reminder for a captive audience.
“Before the website redesign, the only way readers could get notified of favorites was by email. The feature had 338,000 users and “unusually high engagement rates” even though it was hard to find and laborious to sign up for.”
3. De-Silo To Tell A Consistent Story
For a content marketing program to work effectively, one consistent story needs to be told across every single nook and cranny of the organisation. Silos are dangerous. Unless you have a representative from a centre of content excellence planted in every department, cohesion can crumble into a mess of mixed messages.
For a full version of the report, you can download a photocopied PDF right here and read it in your own time.
Lastly, big ups to the New York Times for the share, inadvertent though it may be. They are clearly heading in the right direction (set aside the irony of the leaked document in question appearing on Buzzfeed’s desk as a photocopied PDF, somebody buys them a scanner)
Flickr Image Courtesy Tomas Roggero
Why Print Has Gone Retro-Cool
2014 is the year that digital marketing is truly mainstream. Business blogging is commonplace and marketing managers continue to syphon spending from traditional channels into online.
However, reports of print’s death have been greatly exaggerated. A growing collection of marketers brave enough to challenge contemporary conventions are turning to the humble paper page.
Image Courtesy This Is Paper (a design agency with a beautiful brand magazine)
Niche publications with an ultra-specific focus are working wonders for brands trying to build a passionate subscriber base. As we all know, a community of passionate subscribers can easily turn into loyal customers.
A swathe of online marketing influencers has been watching this micro trend with interest. In the last month, a number of authoritative online commentators have written about the content marketing print resurgence. So we decided to weigh in and let you all know why print can work for you alongside your digital marketing as a low-maintenance subscriber building machine. Make sure you read up!
We thought you’d like to see a recap of the best insights in this newly surfaced print content marketing online conversation, so here goes…
- Annette McCrary from the information management services giant Ricoh gives us a gripping insight into the lessons learnt in publishing ‘The Flow’, a magazine to serve the print production industry. She lets you in on six key tactics that Ricoh use to get the most out of print in their content marketing program.
- Nicolette Beard of Top Rank Blog profiles a handful of killer custom branded print mags, with a list of 15 takeaway lessons for content marketing professionals that’s sure to light your traditional publishing fire.
- Pando Daily took us behind the scenes of Contently’s development of their ‘Quarterly’ brand mag. The enterprise software provider has great content that a pocket of their target audience would love, but the ebook and blog article formats just aren’t the preferred consumption method for this group. The executive folk in question still love to pick up a magazine to flick through over a morning coffee or an interstate flight. Contently wanted to reach this audience and the content was waiting ready, crying out to be repurposed. In this case, the medium of print can open office doors that online content cannot be too often be filtered out by email filters, P.A’s or time constraints.
Apparently, the bold brand magazine warriors ducking and diving through the crowded exodus to digital came from that very paradise of online publishing promise.
The LA Times uncovers the flurry of online-only publishers role-reversing their way into print.
Author Matt Pearce speculates this about-turn is driven by a thirst for a bigger audience across separate channels that ‘publish – and profit – side by side.
Contently jumped in, echoing Matt’s sentiments whilst citing a smattering of .com to postcode transitions in the publishing industry that have followed the business sphere’s content marketing lead.
Sure, this audience diversification insurance policy gives the brand a way to please readers by platform preference, but the strategic influence for marketers to include print in a content marketing program is best summed up by the crazy cassette-buying-hipster subset analogy:
“Paper may now be going the way of music, where the rise of digital has stoked format fetishism among elite audiences, with niche consumers giving second life to analog formats such as vinyl and cassette.
This new rush to print is mostly aimed at a similarly boutique audience, with small runs, sporadic issues (either quarterly or annually) and high quality.”
If paper really is the best way to engage readers without distraction to offer deep insights in a longer format, then quality, specificity and innovation must underpin our printed content.
Use your mag to delight your niche and turn them into furious brand evangelists that repeatedly accost the mailman in bloodthirsty anticipation of your newest issue.
Get the story right first before you sort out the way your audience wants to consume it.
Remember to check out our article on print content marketing to work out if a brand mag could be the secret to your loyal customer subscription-based success.
Image Courtesy Redditian
We have a new favourite marketing blog. It’s called Sorry For Marketing. It says things some people are kinda afraid to say. But we know, deep down beneath our ‘justify-your-role-and-prove-your-value’ reflex, we need to be reminded to do better.
This blog needs to be your new angry-tough-love-shouty-sports-coach marketing advisor that lets you know when you’re getting a smidgen ahead of yourself. It’s goes a little like this…
Except it reminds you not to give up on quality marketing as opposed to making the team at Notre Dame. And the giant janitor man is actually Jay Acunzo, director of platform and community at NextView Ventures.
Why should we listen to him tell us to do better? Evidently, his rep’ is even better than the guy who warmed the bench for the best team in the land.
He was captain of content at Hubspot, the Notre Dame of online inbound marketing. If you want more proof, you can take a look at his envy-inciting back catalogue. Prepare to be disgusted by chronic over-achievement.
Our first key lesson from Jay…
Creating remarkable content is hard. We’re getting better at that. Promoting remarkable content is hard too. We’re pretty good at that. It’s our jam. We’d love to help you create and promote remarkable content.
So here’s some inspiration from a few brands we’ve come across recently, giving it a red hot go.
Vans are truly off the wall.
(We feel obliged to give you every sort of content warning out there on this video series. No nudity. Made up for with excessive explicit language and a multitude of prejudice. We do not endorse any of this video – except the ‘wait in line’ bit.)
Reece is keeping it simple in a valiant effort to make plumbing entertaining.
Shutterstock has taken Jay Baer’s (our other favourite Jay, although the old fella from Modern Family is right up there) advice to create content so good you’d pay for it with their Skillfeed online learning platform. The content you’d pay $19 a month for to be precise. Nothing like telling your boss you don’t need a marketing budget next financial year. Marketing as a profit centre, that’s what we like to hear.
Microsoft have made up for everything with captivating storytelling about their previously hidden super nerds and their super nerdy projects. (Who knew Microsoft are actually interesting?)
And Beardbrand, one of our favourite little eCommerce brands that could, are showing us all that you don’t need a big budget or a bunch of people to make remarkable marketing turn into dollars. $120,000 a month worth.
So get cracking. Be remarkable. Start sharing a story that none of your competitors can tell.
(Oh, and Jay. Yeah. We know our stuff’s not as remarkable as it should be just yet. We’re workin’ on it…)
Happy May marketers.