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

Meredith_Kopit_Levien_NYTimes

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

Influencers_Altimeter

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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New Research: “Defining and Mapping the Native Advertising Landscape”

Not since the legislative debate over spam back in the early part of the millennium has a digital marketing term been so riddled by obfuscation and misunderstanding as native advertising.

A quick search of the term on Google returns an impressive 219 million results, yet to date there’s been no real definition of what marketers, publishers, agencies, social media platforms, or any other players in the digital ecosystem mean when they bandy it about.

With so much discussion centered around native advertising, we felt it critical to define the term, assess the nascent landscape, and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of this new-ish form of advertising. That is what we have done in research published today.

Based on over two dozen interviews with  publishers, social networks, brands, agencies, vendors and industry experts, Altimeter Group has arrived at the following definition of native advertising:

Native advertising is a form of converged media that combines paid and owned media into a form of commercial messaging that is fully integrated into, and often unique to, a specific delivery platform.

In other words, we believe native advertising lives at the intersection of paid and owned media, and is therefore a form of converged media. ‘Owned’ media is content that the brand or advertiser controls. Paid media is advertising: space or time that entails a media buy.

Does native advertising overlap with established forms of sponsored/branded/custom content? Advertorial? Indeed it does. Often differentiation can entail splitting hairs. Yet the evolution of so many unique platforms and technologies has made forms of advertising truly “native.” A sponsored tweet can be native only to Twitter, for example, just as a promoted Facebook post is native only to that one channel.

Native Advertising: The Pros and Cons

Native Advertising: Pros

In addition to defining the term, our research looks at how native advertising can benefit the ecosystem players: technology vendors, agencies, social platforms, publishers, and of course, brands and advertisers. Overall, we see opportunities for all players, these being the chief advantages for each player:

For publishers: new forms of premium inventory.

For social platforms: new advertising products.

For brands: new opportunities for attention, engagement, and message syndication.

For agencies: benefits from creative and media opportunities.

For technology: new solutions facilitate and scale both the creative and delivery aspects of native advertising.

The disadvantages? Scale is an issue, and clearly there are (haven’t were been through this before) issues around disclosure and transparency.

As with all Altimeter Group reports, “Defining and Mapping the Native Advertising Landscape” is Open Research. Please feel free to read it, download it and share it.

Tell us what you think.

If you like it, we’ll create more.

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog.

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Paid, Owned, Earned…Shared?

sharing

The convergence of paid, owned, and earned media has been an important discussion

for some time now. It was a topic of this column  on more than one occasion. The nagging question since the coinage of the POE acronym has been “What about shared media?”

When Jeremiah Owyang and I published research  on the convergence of paid, owned, and earned media, we noted that our colleague Brian Solis advocated adding “shared” to the mix. Lately, I’ve been having similar discussions with Ketchum’s partner and global director, Nicholas Scibetta, (disclosure: Ketchum is a client of my employer) about that same topic.

Ketchum has adopted not a POE model, but rather PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned media), for the work it does for its clients.

Where does shared media sit in the paid, owned, and earned equation? What is sharedmedia, anyway? If shared is a goal, how is it achieved? Is all shared media of equal value? To know, you would need a system for measuring it. What would that be?

None of these questions are easy to answer, but here are some top line musings.

What is shared media and where does it sit in the paid/owned/earned equation?

Shared media is a subset of earned media and a form of amplification. Earned media generally tends have a point of view or an editorial bend. Examples might be a blog post or an article around a topic, a video of a product unboxing, or commentary (“I just saw this new movie and it’s really great/totally sucks,” or “This is what the Travon Martin verdict means for race relations in America”). Shared media, on the other hand, tends to be overwhelmingly duplicative. It’s a forward, a retweet, a pin, or (on Facebook) a literal “share.” Perhaps a word or comment is injected, but essentially it’s a pass-along of an essentially unaltered element of content.

It’s worth noting that you can even share shared media, which in a sense, is earning shared. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is!

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

Image credit: TheAbundantArtist.com

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Build an Audience for Content Marketing

How to build an audience for content marketingIf you build it, will they come?

If you’re super lucky, they will. Most marketers, however, are faced with a challenge that is familiar to publishers and broadcasters: audience development. This means connecting eyeballs with content.

One thing that publishers and broadcasters have going for them is that enterprises engaged in content marketing are only beginning to realize that audience development is an integral part of content strategy.

There are six essential components of audience development. The first four are internal and research-focused, based on figuring out who the intended audience is, what types of content serve the audience members’ needs, and where (and in what formats) content ought to be produced. When it comes to audience development, keep the classic four “w”s in mind: who, what, when, and where.

The second tier of audience development is amplification. Content marketing, by definition, lives on owned media channels (i.e., in places owned and/or controlled by the brand). Often, content needs a bit of a bump to attract attention.

Research and development

Definition Defining an audience is the first and most critical step. Rarely, if ever, is the intended audience “everyone,” even if you’re selling toothpaste and nearly everyone has teeth. Who’s the buyer? The influencer? The decider? Campaigns may be focused to one or more of these identified groups. Rule No. 1 of audience development: Know who you’re addressing with the content.

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

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Why Repetition is Integral to Content Strategy

One of content marketing’s biggest challenges is coming up with new material.

One of content marketing’s other biggest challenges is overcoming something you’ve been told not to do since you were small: repeating yourself.

By “repeating” I’m not referring to verbatim repetition.  You don’t want duplicate content issues on blogs or web pages (and the subsequent SEO penalties). You don’t want to tweet the same tweet, or post the same update multiple times to a Facebook news feed.

But a degree of repetition can be invaluable, sometimes imperative, to successful content marketing initiatives for four primary reasons.

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

Image Credit: Skulls in the Stars

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New Research: Organize for Content

More than a handful of brands publish more content now than a major media property such as Time Magazine did 25 years ago.

Despite the overwhelming and ever-increasing trend toward content marketing, and the need to continually feed an ever-increasing portfolio of content channels and formats, most organizations haven’t yet addressed content on either a strategic or tactical level.

It’s high time they did, and hopefully my new research report, Organizing for Content, will help. It provides both frameworks for coping with enterprise content marketing demands and a checklist of recommendations for organizational readiness.

Consider: The average organization is responsible for the continual content demands of an average 178 social media properties, to say nothing of a myriad of other owned media properties, from websites and blogs to live events.

Those few large enterprises not yet active in social media can easily serve five million email subscribers, as well as multiple millions of monthly unique visitors per month to their sites.

Yet the overwhelming majority of organizations don’t have content divisions in their org charts. Only nine of the brands we interviewed for this report (out of 78 stakeholders, also including content service providers and domain experts) have made explicit content hires, i.e. people with titles such as “editor” or those that contain the word “content.”

Who, or what, governs content internally? Responsibilities and oversight tend to be reactive, highly fragmented and distressingly ad hoc, as illustrated below. This highly typical diagram portrays how one major retail brand divides content responsibilities between divisions that are not necessarily interconnected or in regular communication with one another. This fragmented approach leads to inconsistent messaging, huge variations in voice, tone, and brand, and an uneven customer experience. Channel divisions themselves tend to be ad hoc, assigned more on the basis of hand-raising than any overarching strategic mandate.
Where Does Content Live Inside the Enterprise?
 It’s high time that organizations got organized for content. It’s only going to become more demanding – and harder – in the future.

Native advertising, advertorial, paid influencer, and sponsored content are just a few examples of the paid/owned media hybrids brands are exploring. Content must also be created for an ever-expanding spectrum of media, screens, and devices, ranging from smartphones and tablets to emerging platforms, such as augmented reality, Google Glass, and quite possibly devices like smart watches.

These new channels and platforms, coupled with a trend that de-emphasizes the written word in favor of visual and audio-visual content,  create new skill demands. “Hire a journalist,” a tactic many organizations adopted with the rise of blogging, now is in no way sufficient to address more technical requirements involving deeper knowledge of technology, production, design, and user experience. Requiring overtaxed and untrained staff to “do content” in their spare time is obviously hardly a solution.

Our research identifies six organizational models companies are using to address complex, cross-departmental content needs, and also contains a recommendations checklist for content preparedness. Please download the report (at no cost, we just ask that you share it if you like it), and let me know your reactions in the comments.

I’ll also deliver my findings in a webinar on Wed., May 29 at 1:00 EST. Please register and join us! 

Read and/or download the report below:
[slideshare id=19795236&doc=orgcontentv4-130423141546-phpapp01&type=d]

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