Welcome to the first ever Scribewise Chat – something new we’re trying as a way to pull back the curtain on the conversations we have in our office every day about the news, trends and issues around content and marketing.
Our first conversation centers on what this week’s announcement from Medium about its new “Medium for Publishers” means for content marketing and the way people consume information. In our view, this seems like a possible Tipping Point moment – we know that major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram dominate the way in which people and companies get information, but this seems like next-level stuff. Consider this: Once upon a time, most people considered AOL to be the Internet; are we headed back to a world in which the “Internet” is a set of walled-off platforms that people access for information?The Medium announcement seems to have
The Medium announcement seems to have far reaching implications for a number of reasons, including the act that people generally love Medium as a place to consume content and it has accumulated a large audience over the last few years. In this discussion, we examine what this announcement means for marketing. Specifically, we view our job as content marketers to “build audience” … but what if it’s better to borrow audience?
Scribewise’s John Miller and Kaitlin Loyal discuss what it means for brands and publishers:
john: I’ve been a believer that you have to build your audience on property you can own rather than on the rented property of Facebook or some traditional media outlet. In other words, cut out the middle man, because today’s Internet makes it possible. But with this announcement, I’m wondering about tomorrow’s Internet; if the entirety of the audience is somewhere else – Medium, Facebook, etc. – can you still build an audience that you can own if you’re a brand?
kaitlin: I think you can still build an audience you can own, especially if you’re a B2B brand as opposed to a B2C brand that might be promoting on Facebook. But maybe Medium is a place where you start experimenting with more content. It might be a good place to start watching to see how these other big brands do it. But I think there are a lot of questions brands need to answer before they give up their own land and move over to Medium.
john: Let’s spend a minute on who is moving there. Some pretty significant publishers were announced as moving to Medium for Publishers. Names like Fortune. I find that surprising; I mean they already have an audience and a pretty well trafficked site. Thoughts?
kaitlin: I think Fortune can give up some of their traffic to start experimenting on Medium and see what happens. Medium is using them to set a good example. In their announcement, they mentioned that you can take advantage of “promoted stories” by posting consistent, high quality content…which Fortune and the other brands are all presumably doing already.
john: Right. And if it doesn’t work Fortune theoretically has the brand equity, audience and resources to go back to what they were doing.
kaitlin: Exactly. They don’t care. And if Bill Simmons’s Ringer doesn’t work on Medium, he’ll go somewhere else, too. Same with The Awl. These are beloved brands who have a presence on social media no matter what.
john: So, let’s switch gears and talk about what it means for content marketing, and brands engaged in content marketing. For a brand that maybe doesn’t have the content marketing budget of a Kraft Foods or Coca Cola, what do you think? Is it worth experimenting? I suspect the answer is a definite maybe.
kaitlin: Maybe –
john: Aha! I was right!
kaitlin: Medium is giving brands a boost by making their posts compatible for Facebook Instant Articles and Google’s new Accelerated Mobile Pages. They’ll also be able to charge membership fees to premium content, which I think is a really neat idea. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather pay a couple bucks a month to get ad-free or more interesting content and feel like I’m supporting a company than use AdBlock.
john: I do think that’s the direction things are headed, but I think it’s more for traditional media, which continues to have an antiquated advertising-driven business model. However, if you’re a brand that has created a great content marketing presence that isn’t and never will be ad-supported, what’s the advantage?
kaitlin: That’s the $64,000 question. Maybe the chance to “go viral?”
john: And it’s the crux of what this announcement made me think about. If you build a content-driven presence on a website, but the future of the Internet is platform and app driven, you could someday be left out in the cold. I look at my teenage son, and the Internet for him is not a browser-driven experience. He lives in apps for social media and information.
kaitlin: Traditional websites are not going to go away completely, at least not for a little while (you’ll be retired by then).
john: Ha! How dare you make fun of my advancing years…
kaitlin: Most people over the age of 25 still like to read on traditional websites, for the most part. I’d still rather read an article on NYT.com than on Facebook. I might find articles there, but I visit other sites, too. But as in-app browsers change – i.e., get a whole lot better – those habits might change, too.
john: But you also said right before we started this chat that you rarely visit buzzfeed.com; you view their content on Facebook.
kaitlin: Yep, but that’s BuzzFeed.
john: So, do you think you prefer to go to NYTimes.com because it’s a “legacy brand” whereas BuzzFeed is newer and has always been social? If so, that could have an implication for content marketers, which are very much newer on the scene.
kaitlin: That’s a good question. I think it actually has a lot to do with the experience. I’m going to spend more time reading an NYT article than a BuzzFeed listicle. I want the full experience of NYT in Safari (not Facebook), plus the comments, etc. …I think it really depends on your brand. Actually, it really depends on your audience.
john: Huge point about the audience; that should always be what determines how a brand creates and delivers its content. So, gun to your head, what’s our advice for clients about this? Let’s say a B2B company selling widgets.
kaitlin: Don’t. Move.
john: But experiment? Do both, in moderation?
kaitlin: If you have the audience.
john: Wait wait wait. Aren’t we saying that going to Medium is a way to find an audience? And grow it?
kaitlin: For B2B brands, your best bet is still to grow your audience on your own site. I also think it’s interesting that this is all “free” for right now. So, what will Medium offer for brands who are willing to pay for this service? What are the add-ons? They’re saying they take a cut of promoted stories but I’m sure they’ll add more stuff.
john: Right! And once you’re stuck there and your audience is there, they got you. They got you forever. That’s why you need to be on “owned property.” But… it’s important to see how this evolves. I think it’s very possible that we wake up one day and the browser is like the phonograph, and “the kids” are grooving on an app-based web experience. Brands beware!