This week’s guest is Rob John, MD of the Content Marketing Association. He discusses what the CMA does and who its members are, how content marketing might fit within a publisher’s revenue mix, and the panel they’re running at The Publishing Show in London in March.

In the news roundup the team discusses the realities and unrealities of the metaverse for publishers, German publishers’ latest attempt to curtail Google’s powers, and paid subscriptions for creators on TikTok and Instagram.

The transcript will be live here later this week, but for now, here are some highlights:

The big trends in content marketing for this year

I think the biggest trend right now is agility. Following the pandemic, we’ve had to change so frequently the way and what people are searching for. That doesn’t matter whether you’re a YouTuber, looking to create ways of how you’re going to fly to Malta during the pandemic, or a publisher who’s tapping into real world trends.

I was chatting to one of our members, SevenC3, who create the Sainsbury’s Magazine. They have a team who are just sitting there looking at trends, constantly social media monitoring, looking at the news, and they jump on trends ridiculously quickly and get it out there. So agility is absolutely massive.

It might not just be a trend for 2022. But it might just be the trend going forward that as attention spans change, and alter, and get shorter, I think people are going to be looking more to ‘What do I need right now?’ And you’re going to have to be on that as a publisher.

Where content marketing should sit within a publisher’s revenue mix

It depends on the publisher. Some of our members publish content that’s monetised, whether that’s through the cover price, subscriptions, ad space. And others create content to improve the publication. That’s not to say one does and the other doesn’t. [Huck] sell a cover price, but they also have ad revenue, they also create content for their clients that sits within. So there’s a real mix there.

On the revenue mix, it really does depend on the size of the publication, and the goals within that. [Andrew Hirsch] was telling me that, when in the early days of his career, Viz was making so much money that it covered all the passion projects. He then worked on all these smaller content marketing publications, but the goal wasn’t really revenue, because there was so much money coming in from their paid-for magazines. I really loved that, because it wasn’t the goal for those magazines he was talking about.

Content marketing is great at achieving engagement with an audience. So even if content marketing isn’t a huge part of your revenue mix as a publisher operationally, it has to be, especially going forward. More and more people are looking at you. I’m not going to talk about the diminishing trust of ads, or the diminishing eyeballs on ads. But people actually search for content marketing and spend time reading and engaging with content marketing.

His favourite piece of content marketing

The Michelin Guide. It was the 1900’s, there weren’t many cars around. Their goal was to get more people driving, because they knew that when people drove, they had to get new tyres. And I just love the fact that they created this publication which got people out, got people learning about these restaurants, these destinations.

And then to take it on one step further, it started as a free publication, which a lot of people don’t know. And then after about 15 years or so, it became a paid publication. So I love the evolution that it started as a free piece of content marketing, then it got to the point where they were like, “This is so good. Now people should be paying for this.”

Now, people talk about Michelin stars, and don’t actually know where it came from. And so for me, that is a great example.

Key story: Publishers and the metaverse

The metaverse doesn’t really exist yet, so should publishers be planning to go all-in on yet another platform?

  • There’s an early mover advantage for news and magazine publishers to launch on new platforms. While only 8% of news publishers currently say they intend to invest in metaverse products, the need to discover new – frequently younger – audiences and to discover new revenue sources is a powerful lure. 
  • But as we saw with the overreliance on platforms in the era of web2.0 – and the terrible consequences that came with relying on those platforms to provide accurate metrics – there is enormous danger for publishers when it comes to building strategies around platforms they don’t own.
  • Publishers are experimenting with aspects of the metaverse already, from virtual town halls to remote Think-Ins to NFTs. But the decentralised metaverse doesn’t exist yet and publishers risk running into the same problems of web2 around platform dependency.
  • That’s double the case since Facebook/Meta is making such a play to control that space, with creepy godawful promo material that in no way reflects the reality of most metaverse platforms.
  • Did you know there’s a dedicated Second Life newspaper with a newsroom on that platform?

News in brief:

  • TikTok and Instagram are both testing paid subscriptions for creators. Meta-owned Instagram announced that they were officially in early testing with a small group of creators (just 10) in the US who will be able to offer their followers paid access to exclusive Instagram Live videos and Stories. Subscribers will also get a ‘special badge’. Hot on the heels of their announcement was TikTok, who said they were also testing support for paid subscriptions. This seems to be quite overdue given creators have been using things like Patreon (and platforms like Twitch have enabled creator support) for quite some time now.
  • Ahead of Google’s retirement of the third-party cookie, a number of German advertisers and publishers have raised a complaint with the EU. They allege that the search giant phasing out third-party cookies is in breach of EU law and strengthens Google’s position at the expense of their own. A report by the UK’s competition watchdog advised that UK publishers with a digital focus risked revenue losses of up to 70% as a result of the cookie retirement. The move itself has been delayed multiple times by almost two years as Google negotiates with regulators. It has stated the delay has been done to avoid jeopardising the viability of online publishers to monetise the audiences.
  • Brian Morrisey says publishing is thriving so long as you cater to the affluent. And as he points out, that has always been the case. Rich people buy stuff and advertisers like people who buy stuff so media targeted at rich people has always had a better than average chance of being successful. Why does Stylist or GQ list £1,000 dresses and watches in their product guides. The business model is one problem, but the staffing model is the other – Brian again – “someone whose parents paid their rent snapped up the job”. New funding models that Brian hopes for are important, but so are new HR policies to avoid headlines like this… We ask families for their tips to combat rising energy and food bills – “We’re swapping a £40k nanny for a £10k au pair: preparing for the cost of living squeeze”

 


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