How Much Does Content Cost?

How much does content marketing cost?

Tough question, right? So let’s break the question down a bit to try to simplify it.

How much does content creation cost?

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There are still no easy answers, are there? Yet it’s a question marketers persist in asking, in much the same way people were asking back in the day, “How much does a website cost?” (Once, when my interrogator wouldn’t take “It depends” for an answer, in exasperation I countered with, “Well, how much does it cost to buy a house?”)

But even a website (or a house, for that matter) is much more easily quantifiable than content marketing when it comes to breaking down budgets and expenditures. It’s difficult to impossible to conduct credible research in this area due to a list of variables and mitigating factors longer than your arm.

Attempts At Quantifying Costs Aren’t All That Helpful

There’s research out there. The Content Marketing Institute, in its latest study (PDF) of content marketing budgets for small businesses, states, “On average, 30% of B2B budgets are allocated to content marketing.”

Helpful, kind of, but there’s no breakdown of that self-reported spend. What one business may be spending on a clear content marketing line item (outsourced writing or design talent, for example), another might attribute to event marketing, which has plenty of content marketing potential and traction, but is highly debatable as a line item in and of itself.

The Custom Content Council publishes research around budgets as well. Its research looks at how much its members are spending on “branded” content. This primarily translates into advertorial, which is assuming other meanings as well, e.g. native advertising, a form of converged media (content + advertising). Such nuances of meaning are barely beginning to be accepted as industry standard, so it’s unlikely they’re crystal clear to every individual survey respondent.

This isn’t to cast aspersions on anyone’s research, but to frame the discussion. Let’s consider some of the mitigating factors in the “how much does content cost” question.

Why It’s More Difficult Than One Might Think

• Salaries: The overwhelming majority of organizations don’t yet have dedicated content roles or staff, but instead source content from a wide variety of internal sources: marketing, product leads, customer service, senior leadership, etc. When considering content costs, are content contributors’ salaries broken out in terms of time spent, or the percentage of their time dedicated to content?

• Freelance Creation Fees:  Unlike staff only partially dedicated to content, freelance fees are a much clearer line item. But if images are commissioned for advertising, then used in content (or vice versa), where’s the budget attribution? What about those press releases that were outsourced? Is it communications or PR, or is it content ? Even when outsourced, the lines blur around content budgets – or lack of same.

• Agency BillingsIf you accept the definition of content marketing that it’s owned media and therefore precludes a media buy, you can deduct media spend from content marketing budgets straightway (Or can you? We’ll get into that below.). That leaves agency creative, which is subject to the same blurred lines as are freelance creation fees.

• Software/Hardware Are marketers including their investments in the tools of the trade in their content marketing budget breakdowns? If so, which ones? The ones around creation? Measurement? Syndication and distribution? Recent research I just published breaks down eight use case scenarios for content tools, yet I don’t know that any of these are included (or not) in content marketing budgets or costs (amortized or not).

• Paid and Earned Media If you build it, they may come. Then again, they may not. With so many marketers jumping on the content marketing bandwagon, more and more of them are finding it necessary to invest in paid (advertising ) and earned (social and PR) media to draw attention to their content efforts, at least at the beginning to foster awareness. Where do these costs fall in the budget: content, PR, social, advertising, or all or none of the above?

• Converged Media While we’re on the topic of paid, owned and earned media, it’s clear the three are intermingling to form new types of marketing and advertising. We define native advertising, for example, as content + advertising (or owned + paid media). You can immediately see where the lines blur when content is created modularly for different types of media channels, or used in converged channels that create multiple attributions.

• Events (And Other “Generated” Sources Of Content): A corporate event, a conference, a trade show, a customer showcase – these are all marketing and sales line items, but they generate content, too. It’s not unusual for a single speech, for example to be blogged, tweeted, Slideshared, YouTubed – you name it. All are forms of content marketing, yet the core intent of the content wasn’t necessarily content marketing. Another content budget grey area – and yet one more reason why the cost of content will remain highly nebulous for a good, long time to come.

 

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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Quick! What’s a Digital Newsroom?

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What’s a digital newsroom?

Seems like such a simple question, until you start pondering the potential answers.

The question arose the other day in discussion with an agency client. We were discussing the competitive landscape; how a variety of digital agencies, PR agencies, and the brands they serve are all beginning to establish digital newsrooms.

But what does that even mean?

Do these entities create news? Media relations? Branded content? Social media? Advertising? Native advertising? Brand journalism? Native advertising? Some, or all, of the above?

“Real” newsrooms aside (à la New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other news outlets), the term “newsroom,” like so many digital marketing terms, means many things to many people.

Conduct a search on Google and some media relations sites rank high, such as the  Intel Newsroom. So does Red Bull’s Content Pool, constantly updated with a rich variety of extreme sports material, much of it premium and available for license to commercial media companies for a fee.

The Cisco Newsroom also ranks high for the term newsroom – it’s a hybrid technology news and company news site.

Other tech brands run what you’d consider more traditional newsrooms.  Dell’s Tech Page One is branded content – but also the only branded content site that has passed Google News’ rigorous hurdles for qualifying as “real” news and making it into that feed.

Marketers at one major brand I know of were touring digital news publications last year, studying how their operations worked, in advance of setting up their own newsroom operations, while a direct competitor was hiring seasoned journalists to do exactly that in-house.

Those same journalists are also decamping to PR firms, which are setting up their own newsroom operations. Weber Shandwick’s mediaco and Edelman’s Creative Newsroom, which both launched last year, are newsrooms staffed by former newspaper, television and magazine staffers, as well as digital and content strategists, planners, analysts and syndicators. They’re creating not just “news,” but also content for owned and social media, as well as multimedia production.

Agencies can get hyper-specific with the definition and focus of a newsroom. Deep Focus’ social media newsroom Moment Studio creates Facebook content for Pepsi and Purina.

Adidas recently announced it will establish video “digital newsrooms around the world” for its shoe brands to tap into trending topics and real-time marketing.

Clearly, there’s no one definition of a digital newsroom, there’s not even a single defined purpose or function. Unless you’re an actual news organization, the purpose – even the reason for being – of a newsroom is governed by one principal only: content strategy.

This post originally published on iMedia

Photo Credit: The Front Page

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Micro Content, Maxi Effect — How Shifts Toward Visual Content Will Impact Marketers

The written word seems to be on the decline, at least in the online space. Articles and white papers have morphed into blog posts and status updates. Hashtags, acronyms and emoticons stand in for sentences. OTP, BRB, LMK, OK?  :-)

How low can you go? In a year or two, 140 characters — a miserly allotment now — will seem a luxury, a vestige of an era marked by logorrheic verbosity.

If you doubted it before, believe it now: a picture really is worth the proverbial thousand words. Maybe more.

Opinion? Sure. But the facts bear this out. Facebook keeps redesigning to feature bigger, bolder images. Oh yeah, and the company bought Instagram for a cool million. Videos now auto-play on the platform. Yahoo, meanwhile, snatched up Tumblr. Twitter continues to make images and videos a more prominent part of the user experience. And don’t forget the increasing popularity of Pinterest, YouTube, and SnapChat — you can easily see where all this is going.

Research, too, bears out the hypothesis that visual (and audio-visual) content is subsuming the written word. As an analyst, when I ask marketers about the types of content and media channels they’re leaning toward in the future, all forms of written content are on the decline, from press releases to blog posts.  Investment is around multimedia and images.

Content types

The chart above highlights the reason behind this shift in the we communicate online: mobile. Simply put, no one’s about to read War and Peace on a smartphone. Mobile means a lot of things, but mostly it means that screens are getting smaller. The smaller the screen, the pithier information must be in order to be comfortably communicated and absorbed by its target audience.

Ease of use is key here as well. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter don’t create content, rather they enable its dissemination — and if no one updates their status, then these platforms don’t stand a chance. Clearly, it’s a lot easier to upload that shot of your Hawaiian vacation (or delicious lunch, or mischievous puppy) than to narrate in detail why such things are interesting — especially while using your thumbs and combating auto-correct.

Content Strategy Implications

That content is becoming shorter, less verbose and more visual obviously has tremendous ramifications for content strategy. Here are three major points to bear in mind.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published. 

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Q&A With New York Times Meredith Kopit Levien on Native Advertising Launch

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All prognostications for 2014 (including my own) point to native advertising as A Big Thing to watch this year – and it is. The FTC’s December workshop thrust native into the spotlight, but nothing has amplified the fact that native advertising has arrived more than the New York Times launch of Paid Posts, its native product that launched this week with Dell as the first advertiser.

Late as the Grey Lady may be to the party (virtually all other members of the Online Publishers Association already have some form of native advertising on offer), the Times is the Times; a standard bearer in media, publishing and journalistic best practices.

Native advertising has been both delayed and controversial at the newspaper of record. Executive Editor Jill Abramson has expressed strong reservations. Publisher and Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. very recently distributed a native advertising “manifesto” to staff.

So with the new product finally launched, I caught up with the Times’ EVP Advertising Meredith Kopit Levien to pose some questions about native advertising at the Times. Most are based around the best practice recommendations in my recent research on the topic of native advertising (download available here).

Q: Native advertising is highly labor intensive and requires “feeding the beast” with content. Your first advertiser, Dell, is led by Managing Editor Stephanie Losee, who has  a very strong editorial background. Will the Times have difficulties finding other clients up to this challenge?

Levien: We see a lot of clients who have developed their own newsrooms or who have always-on content strategies. Social media gave everybody the opportunity to be a publisher. The amount of maturity in the marketing is growing. There are a whole lot of marketers who have an always-on content strategy. Using that in conjunction with the Times’ content division is how we’ll produce content. Intel [another enterprise with a very mature content organization] and a handful of others will launch this quarter.

Q: What formal policies does the TImes have in places around church/state divisions? 

Levien: We’ll establish more over time. The brightest, clearest, most important is the newsroom is the newsroom. It does not touch [Paid Posts]. That will not change. That’s an important separation to keep. The others fall out from that. Also, Paid Posts carry a label and full disclosure.

Q: The Times is hiring freelancers to write Paid Post content. Can these same freelancers also write for the editorial sections of the paper?

Levien: That’s an evolving discussion.

 Q: Dell’s commitment is three months. What about other advertisers’ commitments? And given this is a premium product, will you limit how many advertisers can run Paid Posts at any given time?

Levien: We are establishing minimums. We don’t want to do this as a one-off. We also require that all content be original, not repurposed for the Times.  We’re not in any danger of the consumer thinking there’s too much of this on the site.

Q: If advertisers can’t bring their own content in, can they get your content to-go, so to say?

Levien: Once we co-produce the piece, the marketer can do with that what they want – the marketer has ownership. That’s the to-go model: using our content for their purposes.

Q: What metrics is the New York Times tracking to gauge the success of this program?

Levien: We are using an incredible vendor named SimpleReach. They have built a custom metrics dashboard. They give a marketer the same metrics the newsroom uses: pages, views, etc., also social referrals. How much traction is the content getting compared to editorial content? Secondly, is it trending on the social web, and if it is, what can we do to amplify it?

Q: Many publishers offering native advertising solutions, like Hearst and Buzzfeed, are offering training and educational programs to advertisers and agencies. Will the New York Times follow suit?

Levien:  Certainly in the early months we’re going to do collaborative education with the partners we bring on. It’s not out of the question we wouldn’t turn that into a program.  We have a  lot of knowledge about how content moves through our platform.

Q: There’s a great deal of role confusion when it comes to native advertising. Brands, their advertising agencies, PR agencies – everyone is jostling for position in this space. Who do you anticipate you going to work with?

Levien: There is  much more transition that will happen between paid owned and earned media. We’re mostly working with the brands, but there’s a huge role for the ad agencies and the PR agencies. Lots of brands have agencies who are helping to add to their content capabilities. We’ve tried to organize in a way that’s friendly to an agency buying.

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Real Time Marketing: How Brands Can Prepare And Succeed

Oreo. Starbucks. American Express. Dell. These are brands that come to mind when the topic of real-time marketing (RTM) arises — as it does with increasing frequency these days.

Big DataReal-time is gaining traction for all kinds of reasons. Arecent study by GolinHarris demonstrates real-time can raise literally all desirable marketing metrics.

Eighty-three percent of marketers say they plan to begin to use, or to increase their use of, real-time data in marketing campaigns this year, according to Infogroup Targeting Solutions and Yesmail Interactive (pdf). The movement toward RTM is undeniable.

Real-Time Marketing

As a research analyst, I’m currently digging into this topic (expect a report on the subject in early December). We’ve identified five real-time marketing use case scenarios. All of them support varying business goals; all require real-time capabilities (the advantages and challenges of which our report will address); yet, all require a different balance of strategy, tactics and preparation.

1. Breaking News

The most reactive form of real-time marketing is responding in a legitimate, relevant manner to unanticipated breaking news. This is often the most spontaneous, challenging and difficult type of RTM that a brand can face.

Advance preparation is all but impossible, and very frequently, breaking news isn’t good news, so an acute degree of sensitivity is called for. The requirement is often not just getting a polished message out in a short period of time in reaction to a news event, but also following the arc of a story as it unfolds. “Real time” can last many hours, days, or even weeks or months.

Examples: The BP Gulf oil spill; airlines reacting to the Icelandic volcano eruption; Boston Marathon bombing, etc.

2. Brand Events

Product launches, corporate conferences, media and customer-facing events, offers, and sales all are breaking news events, but of a very different sort. While they unfold in real time, this type of RTM requires a high degree of anticipatory preparation in addition to on-the-spot reactive work.

Content strategy, pre-approvals, media and channel plans, hashtags, creative elements, editorial calendars, etc., can all be prepared and approved in advance. On-the-ground “street teams” are often needed, but the environment is more controlled and guardrails are in place.

Examples: Pepsi’s introduction of a skinny can during Fashion Week; American Express Small Business Saturday; Pizza Hut/Foursquare/Super Bowl check-in promo, etc.

3. Customer Interaction

Customers have come to expect brands to respond to their digital queries and complaints in near-real time, a reality that has compelled more than one enterprise to adopt RTM. Real-time marketing related to customer interactions requires a combination of both reactive and anticipatory work: triage, determining what types of messaging will be responded to and in which channels (public or private), empowering staff to address complaints, having a breaking news communications plan ready for crises, etc.

Examples: CRM, customer service, crisis management, handling complaints, community management, etc.

4. Preparatory/Anticipatory

A growing number of organizations have become mature enough to prepare for real-time events in advance. By having business goals, strategies, teams, approvals, and content at the ready ahead of time, these businesses position themselves to make the most out of such opportunities. This “ducks in a row” approach is deployed by advertisers, sponsors, and consumer brands in advance of major events.

Examples: Oreo’s fully staffed Super Bowl “war room”; HBO preparing content for the Emmys that addressed all categories for which their programming was nominated so appropriate posts could be made for each win or lose scenario; Starbucks preparing assets for a warming beverage that’s deployed locally when snow falls, etc.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

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The Symbiosis of Twitter and TV

5949154732_97b0db6221Can you imagine Twitter without TV? Or TV without Twitter? In an era of media and channel convergence, nothing seems to have converged more quickly, or inextricably, than these two channels. A mutual dependency has arisen almost out of nowhere — one that benefits viewers, broadcasters, brands, and advertisers. Consider some of the ways that Twitter is changing television viewing habits and bringing old media into the future.

Real-time viewing

Just when the DVR was threatening to time-shift everyone away from their sets for good, postponing all but the most must-see of TV (i.e., major sport events and award shows), Twitter made television real-time again by plunking the water cooler down onto the sofa cushions. Sure, there’s Facebook and a host of social TV apps. But arguably it’s Twitter, and viewers armed with a battery of laptops, smartphones, and tablets, that has truly relegated the TV set to the status of “second screen.” This has time-shifted viewing as closely back to real-time as it’s ever going to get, as viewers discuss shows with friends, family, hosts, presenters, and the world at large. No DVRs? Advertisers (and broadcasters) don’t hate this.

Lean back/lean forward: Which is which?

Eons ago, when I worked in television (we’re talking mid-’90s), the difference between TV and online was described as lean back vs. lean forward. Consumers were in one mode or the other (i.e., passively viewing on the sofa or actively typing at a desk). The distinction is all but laughable now. Twitter has contributed immensely to an active, engaged, participatory television audience. Advertisers don’t hate this.

Higher ratings

Live chats on Twitter with talent from the show “Bad Girls Club” increased tune-in for the show on Oxygen by 92 percent. On the West Coast, where the chats were not initially available (presumably for time zone reasons) tune-in was up only 14 percent. This is only one of dozens of anecdotes of increased activity, engagement, and boosted ratings — thanks to the immediacy and buzz generated not only by Twitter, but by pulling other forms of social marketing into the mix, such as images and videos. Again, it’s good for everyone in the ecosystem: viewers, Twitter, the broadcaster, and advertiser.

Greater advertiser reach/targeting at little incremental cost

Compared to the cost of a TV buy, advertising on Twitter is a relative bargain. Arguably, Twitter’s acquisition of Bluefin earlier this year can help those advertisers even better target audience segments than broadcast can, at lower cost for better messaging resonance. Another win-win.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published. 

Image credit: arcticpenguin

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Content: Why Influence Matters

Do name-brand journalists still require the backing of name-brand media outlets?

Recent headlines strongly indicate that the byline is being rapidly decoupled from the masthead. Glenn Greenwald left The Guardian to start his own media venture, backed by

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eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Technology veteran Walt Mossberg, together with the redoubtable Kara Swisher, are walking out of the Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal door, taking the AllThingsD team with them. David Pogue abandoned the venerable New York Times for (of all possible media properties) Yahoo. And, most recently, Rick Berke is to leave the New York Times for Politico.

The quality these journalists have in common is a degree of brand value so high that it can be decoupled from the media property that launched and/or fostered it (and leveraged to support other endeavors). These are journalists who have become true influencers.

Influencers are influential individuals with an above-average impact on (some niche within) society. An influencer can be anyone from an international pop celebrity like Justin Bieber to a niche industry celebrity like Danny Sullivan.

Leveraging Niche Industry Influencers

A prime example of a niche industry influencer is Duncan Epping, a VMware engineer and blogger who’s mobbed by autograph seekers whenever he appears at an event. You’ve likely never heard of Epping, and you’re not alone — I hadn’t either, until I learned about him from John Troyer, VMware’s social media evangelist.

Troyer heads up the company’s vExpert program, which he describes as such:

Basically, [it's] our content army. The vExperts are not all bloggers, but we do pull their posts together here. My goal is to have the first two pages on Google filled with their content when you search for VMware. But it can’t be all about us — it’s also about what’s in it for them. We give them free licenses for our software. We just granted 35 free tickets for our conference in Barcelona. We hire them to work on a freelance basis for us and for our agencies.

VMware’s investment in the vExperts program has paid off handsomely in terms of content marketing. The company has built an invaluable resource — a respected community of experts producing excellent content — that keeps on growing. This year, VMware anointed 581 vExperts to the five-year-old program. (Each year, there’s a formal application process; applicants get in based on their knowledge and contributions to the community.)

Influencers: Turning Owned Media To Earned Media

Leveraging influencers — be they journalists, bloggers, or subject-matter experts – can be an essential cornerstone of content strategy. Content is owned media which, by my definition, does not entail a media buy (i.e., it’s not advertising). However, just because you build it doesn’t necessarily mean they will come — at least, not without some degree of traction. Influencers can, in this regard, be a solid replacement for a media buy.

Consider this case study from an enterprise technology company. Twenty-four influencers were commissioned to create content around themes related to the brand’s products and initiatives. In total, 128 blog posts, infographics, videos and images were produced and shared on the influencers’ channels and promoted (with disclosure) across their social networks.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

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