Have You Embraced Being A Media Company? Really?

It’s not a new notion that every company is a media company, but it’s still a succinct way to describe the shift in communications the web has enabled. This isn’t a strategy, it’s simply the way the world is. Either embrace it or don’t.

Yet I think a lot of companies and marketers pay lip service to the shift but don’t do a damn thing about it. Which is fine, but they don’t really have much to ground on when their organic digital marketing efforts fail.

Being a modern, relevant media company involves a pivot of your communications strategy to put an owned channel at the center. You don’t see popular media brands yielding their presence 100% to the stream. They would have to be crazy to do this as they’d be basically giving any of their personal leverage away. They are building opt-in at the source and growing their main communities safe from externalities in an environment with a signal to noise ratio they control.

Pontificators look hypocritical when they say blogs are dead, meanwhile they sit back and continue to build up their own publishing ventures, funneling traffic and communities from the streams and the engines. It’s in their interest to propagate controversy: it creates links, traffic and attention. All which contribute to their brand and help sell more ads to build revenue. And if their influence is that far-reaching, hey it could even mean less competition for them. Meanwhile at the end of the day a blog is simply a publishing platform – so anyone who says blogs are dead is basically saying self-hosted digital publishing is dead. Right. What would everyone link to? If the social web is a problem in search of a solution, perhaps you should be the solution.

So just what are modern media companies doing right?

They are not just embracing search and social – they are reorganizing to dominate them

Did you see AOL’s master plan leaked to the web? Yeah it’s a bit convoluted but the main takeaway is they are aggressively going after search and social. To the point they aren’t even afraid to throw paid promotions at stories. Likely, they’ve ran the numbers and understand a certain thresholds of visitors are necessary to create the highest chances for content to propagate and build up enough organic momentum for search and social channels. Meanwhile, media entities and companies who are reticent not only continue to fall further behind, they are dying.

Being efficient with their time

As I noted above, many smart media companies are focused on building opt-in at the source and creating a hub on the web. This is smart – ultimately they will monetize by serving ads, affiliate links, selling premium services/subscriptions/apps or even consulting and software (no, it’s not far fetched and yes, modern media companies could easily compete with you). They’re still leveraging outposts, but in many cases doing so efficiently. Consider the NY Times doesn’t really have a Facebook page, they basically just have another RSS feed. Subscribers don’t notice the difference because likely many of them never used RSS in their life. Facebook just makes it possible to syndicate there much like you would a feed.

The Times also gutted their social media position:

The move is part of the Times’ efforts to more fully integrate its print and digital operations. It’s also an acknowledgment that social media needs to be — and is already — a shared responsibility.

….Social media can’t belong to one person; it needs to be part of everyone’s job…It has to be integrated into the existing editorial process and production process”

Indeed, once an organization gets to a certain level of sophistication social media-specific positions start to make less sense. Get everyone to be socially smart. Shows you some media companies may actually be ahead of the curve in terms of having a digitally-savvy team. Not to say social media team members aren’t still valuable. Of course they are, but once a company has a larger social strategy everyone is executing on they can transition into larger and more strategic roles. Jeremiah Owyang notes this trend in a recent report.

Tapping communities for content

A-list blogs and media frequently tap expert guest contributors for content. It’s smart because they get something: compelling content and the reach into that person’s network (undoubtedly anyone who guest contributes will share it back with their network) and the person gets something: the notoriety of being features in that publication and the reach into that publication’s network. Sites like the Huffington Post basically organized around their community for content and offered this as the norm, not the rule to the tune of 315 million. Again any community member who was upset doesn’t really have a right to be: they get something too for contributing.

Investing in content and viewing it as an asset

I noted this in my primer on content marketing but I’m going to share this one again. Have you seen the posts at Smashing Magazine? If not, you should take a look at what they do right whenever they publish. They vest the effort make every post an authority on the given subject. What has this built for them? Hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Millions of visitors per month. Leverage to create an e-commerce platform and even a job board. They have attention and a community – now they get to decide what to do with it. If they ever need anything: research, more contributions or to help spread news they have built permission with a community they can ask. And I bet their readers are happy to help due to all their value Smashing provides.

Of course all of these examples have different views on content. AOLs view is to be fast and prolific, Smashing wants to be authoritative and definitive. But if you boil it down they are actually built on the same underlying foundation despite different approaches to get there.

These are just some samples of what modern media companies have done, but let’s go back to the beginning. Are you really embracing being a modern media company? Are you building a community and view your web content and audience as assets to accrue over time? If no, you likely still see marketing as a cost-center, not a revenue generator and have bigger problems. You also probably keep paying new money to reach the same people. I’m sorry for you, but no one says that has to continue: it’s up to you to evolve your approach. If yes, are you taking cues from the successful media brands of today? Perhaps you should be.

image credit: Katharina Wittfeld from Shutterstock