Content marketing is content created and distributed by brands across media channels (traditional media – TV, Print; new media – social, search, and syndication) in a variety of formats like, text, video, games, experiences etc. Basically, it is how a brand communicates with its existing customers and prospects without actually selling. The first content marketing campaign was executed in 1895 by John Deere. The Furrow, a custom publication was created by John Deere to educate farmers on how to become more profitable. It is still in circulation today reaching 1.5 million readers in 40 countries.
In the digital space, content has traditionally been monetized by the banner ad for the last two decades. Little innovation has happened in this ad product, which is becoming less and less effective. In addition, most forms of ad monetization in the digital space today are intrusive creating negative brand association.
Platforms like Medium, Branch, App.net, & Svbtle, which represent the ‘The Clean Web’ movement, proliferation of internet access via mobile devices and social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, BuzzFeed, and YouTube, have made it even more difficult to shoehorn the banner ad into these new mediums, which are primarily presented as streams as opposed to a traditional webpage. Streams lend itself well to content marketing or native advertising – advertising that is native to the medium – which coupled with the issues mentioned in the traditional web, makes native advertising a truly disruptive technique in the digital advertising space.
There are quite a few upstarts providing native advertising to content marketers. ShareThrough has staked claim for distribution of videos – branded content – across social platforms. Outbrain and a few others have leveraged the content recommendation avenue to push sponsored text and video content across traditional websites. There are content syndication platforms like Grab Media, NDN, and Aol’s 5Min Media which push branded video content across traditional websites. Twitter has promoted tweets, YouTube has promoted videos, and Facebook has sponsored stories. All these are forms of native advertising that are native to the medium, targeted to match content, and are non-intrusive creating true engagement and positive brand association.
Content marketers who have traditionally used owned media and earned media to reach out to audience can now leverage native advertising to get paid media to work for them. For example, if Marico wants to promote healthy living they can create weekly webisodes on cooking, health & fitness, etc using their products and/or integrate their brands message within the content and distribute it across owned, earned and paid media. This sustained weekly engagement via content would help its target audience associate Marico with healthy living.
To put together a comprehensive media plan for a brand’s content, it all becomes overwhelming for a content marketer. There are just too many moving parts, deployment methods, non-standard measuring techniques, and lack of reach due to near absence of inventory for native advertising from traditional networks. For native advertising to gain scale brands, technology and publishers have to come together and create a value chain that creates easy deployment, management, and optimization. However, the opportunity it holds has got many early adopters across brands to push the agenda. 2013 would be the year this would go mainstream as existing content networks, new upstarts, and traditional publishers would follow suit and start expanding the value chain.
[Subbu Murugan (@subbumurugan) is the Founder & CEO, Ventuno Technologies. Ventuno is a leading video content syndication platform.]