Brands Pull a Page From Publishers’ Books: Here’s Why | What’s New in Publishing


More and more brands are turning to publishing, but what about brands? How can you reap the same benefits?

Around the world, a trend is growing where brands are following in the footsteps of publishers to benefit from the power of content…

And it’s not just acquisitions, brands are also launching their own media independently…

So what’s going on? Why is brand publishing gaining popularity? And how can brands succeed in the publishing industry?

How do brands become publishers?

There are 3 potential routes from brand to publisher…

  • A brand purchase an existing medium (such as Hubspot buying The Hustle)
  • Equity investment (as Penn National Gaming originally did with Barstool Sports)
  • Develop content independently (the approach taken by Red Bull)

In any case, the move to publisher status often begins with traditional content marketing that stands out for having more potential than just marketing, combined with a desire to better understand and interact with customers.

This transition from content marketing to brand publishing means get away from the campaign mentalitytalking about the product, to instead focus on building relationships with customers, providing information that meets customer interests and needs, whether through digital or print publication.

Why are more and more brands turning to publishing?

The benefits of branded publishing are endless and cover many aspects of your business model:

The desire of brands to position themselves as experts in industry – to reassure users, build trust, develop close relationships and increase brand loyalty (for high CLV – high customer lifetime value).

Spectators acquisition – increase the size of the audience at the top of the funnel to then work on the engagement of these users and eventually convert them into customers.

Provide a a service to customers and prospects

Develop a better agreement audiences – collect first-party data through user interactions with content, progressively profile them to learn who your audience is, what type of profile is likely to buy in the future, and what you need to do to help them convert. You can even make the most of your media to get in direct contact with your audience through events, communities, panel discussions, even interviews.

First party data collection is also incredibly valuable in overcoming the challenges of a cookie-free future.

To be able to use this data in improve marketing and sales efforts – send personalized marketing campaigns to the right person, at the best time and in the format most likely to convert that individual user into a customer.

Decrease acquisition costs and increase income – by gaining notoriety and credibility within your industry, you will naturally need less money to be invested in the acquisition

Diversify acquisition formats to create a richer user experience and increase Customer LTV – engage users in a variety of content formats, including written content (both digital and print), newsletters, apps, podcasts, videos, and more.

“Historically, the gaming industry has focused on customer acquisition through a combination of third-party lead generation and traditional advertising (where allowed). In recent years, the model has partly moved to more involved partnerships with linear broadcast networks… The idea here is simple: eyeballs build brand awareness and eventually lead to new customers.

In the customer acquisition game, lowering costs is king. This is where Barstool fits in.

Will Hershey, Roundhill Investments

What makes a brand successful when it becomes a publisher?

The benefits are clear, but the challenge is to create, manage, measure and monetize content in this increasingly competitive and ever-changing publishing industry.

The goal of your marketing efforts remains the same – to turn audiences into paying customers – but the the means to achieve them are differentmoving from selling a product or service to creating quality content, telling stories that engage consumers.

First, it is essential to clearly define and share the process from brand to publisher

  1. Define your goals: Why do you post content? How will you measure success? What are you going to publish?
  2. Personage – identify your target audience, especially those who generate the most business directly (purchases) or indirectly (recommendations)
  3. The user journey – and when the brand will enter the journey
  4. Business plan – are you launching, acquiring or investing?
  5. Identifying your formateditorial line, type of content, etc.
  6. Setup and acceleration – coordinate internally
  7. Measure (and if the chosen format does not suit you, you can always go back to redefine the objectives and the path to get there)
Brand Edition

Your North Star KPI should be ARPU, not audience

Not all visitors to your site are equal in terms of the value they bring to your business. And while it may be a good idea to track and work on increasing the volume of visitors to your content, efforts should instead be put on developing the value of these users, i.e. ARPU. .

Getting back to basics, your traffic doesn’t look like the graph on the left (unfortunately). Instead, the majority of users are volatile (only visiting once a month), anonymous, and sometimes don’t even consent to cookies, meaning very limited tracking and analytics potential.

Brand Edition

However, although these users make up the majority of your audience, it is the minority of users – those who are anonymized, consenting and highly engaged – who will bring the most value to your business.

This table below (made up of false data) illustrates this point well. Volatile users, despite being the highest percentage of your audience, are far less likely to convert in any form and earn you very little revenue. Conversely, members who are highly engaged but only represent a minority of your audience are much more likely to convert to customers and bring high ARPU.

We therefore strongly recommend audience segmentation based on engagement level and ARPU tracking as the north star metric rather than traffic.

Create value for your target audience

As with news publishers, you will gain more value from your audience if you provide them with value in return. This is exactly how any conversion works, whether it’s converting an anonymous user into a member, subscriber or registered customer.

For example, with free registration (via a registration wall), you can offer users access to additional content, provide an ad-free experience, or integrate UX features such as saving content for later topics/authors or following (find more ideas here).

In exchange, these users create an account to provide you with first-party data, a better understanding of your audience, additional advertising revenue through targeting, and users who gradually engage more and more with your content, which makes it more likely to subscribe or buy. from you in the future.

Brand Edition
Welcome to the Jungle inscription wall

You can even offer paid subscriptions, either through a paywall for digital offerings or through a paper subscription for hard copies.

It’s also extremely important to prove this value internally to your teams, ensuring they buy-in and understand the reasons for your move to branded publishing.

Discover how to create a community of users

Brand posting is a long-term investment in building your audience. By creating value, you can grow a community of like-minded users who feel they can connect to your content, learn from each other, and trust the information shared.

Some ideas for creating a community:

  • Facebook, Linkedin or Slack groups (depending on your target audience) – BBC Food even uses its Facebook group to learn about its users’ interests, get content ideas and connect directly with its audience
  • UX features such as article comments (this could even be a value-added feature of creating a free account or subscription) or debates (The Drench is a shining example of the value of interactional content)
  • In-person events, such as roundtables or conferences, which can be either for all users or as an exclusive benefit for members

Be brand independent – not too much self-promotion

A brand publisher does not explicitly encourage purchase, but rather engages and draws the audience around the information, earning their trust to ensure they think of you when they are ready to buy. That is, content marketing for a publisher (on a brand) goes from product-centric to user-centric.

Deliver value in a variety of media formats

Think outside the box to engage your users in a variety of formats (written content, audio, videos, etc.) and across a range of mediums, including on-site, newsletters, social media, and possibly print.

Magdalene White
Content Marketing Manager, Pool


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