Traditional Publishers Under Threat From Brands Becoming Their Own Publishers

Portrait Of Confused Businessman With Computer In Office

As publishers attempt to find new consumers and audiences, the pressure from brands that produce their own content is boiling up. At least, that’s the view of Barry McGhee and Roger Berdusco from digital retail company Triad Retail.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

McGhee, Triad’s country manager in Australia, comes from a traditional publishing background and said when he first came to Triad, he immediately saw how the proposition could be very attractive to advertisers.

Triad is a company that creates content and chugs along the e-commerce platforms for high-profile retail brands such as Walmart and eBay. Berdusco, the company’s CEO, noted how over the past few years the company has boosted Walmart’s content online, creating it a publisher in its own right. This move towards brands becoming publishers though is putting a strain on traditional publishers, McGhee and Berdusco suggested.

“It’s competitor pressure on traditional publishers because obviously they’re being discretionary through their agencies and they’re directing that media budget to publishing partners who perform,” said McGhee.

“There’s a huge opportunity that retail sites are bringing to market for advertisers and for brands. And interestingly, from a business model perspective, we know premium content is expensive to produce, retail have got revenue streams that sit within their e-commerce business so they’re not necessarily under the same pressure that traditional publishers, we know, are under.”

It’s a form of content marketing that’s been simmering for years. In 2015 Forbes said Coca-Cola was becoming a publisher, however AdWeek disparaged brands claiming this themselves as it was a disgrace to the traditional publishers who have the pressure to monetise this content.

“It’s time to get real,” wrote B. Bonin Bough, consumer and media engagement head at Mondelez, for AdWeek. “For the last five years, all we’ve been hearing is that brands are publishers.

“This means that for the last five years not only have we been lying to ourselves, but we’ve also been disgracing the real publishers out there who understand how hard it is to monetise content.”

The monetisation of content is a constant battle for publishers. The Guardian Australia itself admits it had to up its revenue streams from two to 10 over the past few years to combat the traditional struggles.

Whereas in the retail sector, Triad’s McGhee said the advantage for online stores is people are already logged in because they want to buy something. The brand already has their data so can see what they’re reading, if they’re engaging with content outside the buying process.

“And then to the point where data is becoming increasingly important, you can compare the types of data and the quality of the data retailers sit on [for advertisers],” he said.

“We know very clearly that when someone is going to eBay and, for example, searching for mobile phones, they’re wanting to use mobile phones.”

It’s not all smooth sailing for brands wanting to become publishers though, as Greg Satell points out for the Harvard Business Review. If they want to do it, they have to do it well.

“For all of the talk about ‘brands becoming publishers’, most marketers are simply tacking on publishing functions to their existing operations without implementing any new processes or practices,” he wrote in February this year. “That is a grave mistake.”

“If you can’t create a compelling experience, it doesn’t really matter what your content strategy is: it will fail.”

He outlines four points brands that want to become publishers need to step up. Read them here.