Stop Becoming a Publisher, Just Buy One

Stop Becoming a Publisher, Just Buy One

No matter where I travel around the world, marketers ask how they can create more and better content to fuel their search, social and lead generation programs.  They want to publish content just like publishers and media companies have been doing since the dawn of time.

More and more companies are developing content marketing programs that are powering websites (like American Express Open Forum), social media programs (like GE Stories), custom magazines, (like thinkMoney Magazine from TD Ameritrade), and in-person events, (like Dreamforce from

At enterprise brands, we are truly seeing the evolution of the marketing department–or at least a major part of it–into a publishing entity. (Do I have to bring up Red Bull Media House?)

But here’s my question: Why do we need to build this?  Maybe we can buy it instead.  Most enterprise brands are flush with cash (corporate profits have never been higher), while at the same time, publishers are finding it harder and harder to support their business model through advertising.  The two of these trends colliding presents an interesting opportunity.

Brands Want Two Things from Publishers

There are two things that publishers and media companies have that brands want and need.

The first is the capability to tell stories. Let's face it, most brands are horrible storytellers. Content programs are both self-serving (they talk mostly about their products and services) and short-lived (based on campaigns). Media companies, for the most part, are the opposite. They have the people and processes to churn out amazing content on a consistent basis.

The second, and maybe the most important, is media companies come with built-in audiences. As brands struggle to build engaged audiences on a myriad of platforms, that's simply what media companies do. Without an engaged audience, a media company can't sell anything.

With both these issues, brands can either build it (like they've been doing) or buy these capabilities. The good news for brands is that their business model for content is actually easier than it is for media companies.  Brands use content to sell products and services directly to their audiences; they don’t need to monetize it through advertising or sell the content itself.

Get Ready for a Media Shopping Spree

We've seen non-media brands buy media companies before. A few years back, photo supplies company Adorama invested in JPG magazine. Google purchased Frommer's and Zagat.

These examples are just the start. We are about to see a flood of occurrences where brands buy media companies. Instead of renting a publisher's audience through advertising, they can simply buy them. They not only purchase the value of the brand, they get the circulation list and the storytelling factory that made that circulation possible.

Whether you believe that this is good or bad doesn't matter. The fact is this: The pieces are in place for this to start happening. Once a few big-named brands pull this off, the rest of the dominoes will fall.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute 

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