As content marketing continues to be the top online marketing strategy, many brands are establishing themselves as publishers in order to gain exposure and favor with their audiences. Alternatively, many major publishers have become so large, that they have become brands themselves. In this post, we’re going to look at examples of those who blur the lines between business and publishing based on their output of amazing content, and how they use their reputations to monetize and grow their businesses.
Within the online marketing world, you will find few people who haven’t heard of HubSpot. And it’s not because they produced the top inbound marketing software. They are well known for publishing a lot of high-quality content.
First, you have their blog (as shown above). They cover the latest inbound marketing news, tips, tutorials, and opinion pieces. HubSpot staff writes a majority of their articles. So not only is their brand a publisher, but their staff are the journalists.
HubSpot also creates a large amount of content in other formats – whitepapers, ebooks, webinars, templates, kits, photos, and tools. This is where they translate their reputation as a publisher into ROI. In order to download one of their many marketing resources, you must fill out a lead generation form.
In addition to social media channels, they promote their marketing resources within their blog articles. It makes HubSpot the perfect example of a brand growing their business and generating revenue through positioning themselves as publishers as well as thought leaders.
Another great example of a major brand diving into publishing is American Express. They have created a huge resource for businesses, the American Express Open Forum.
Here, you will find a wealth of articles on customers, leadership, marketing, money, and technology – all of the things any successful business will need to have a firm grasp of. In addition to great articles, they have also created a community where members can join the forum, discuss their business issues with other members, and share insights. Having an on-site community like this boosts visitor loyalty exponentially as it gives people more reasons to visit the site, such as awaiting the answer to a question they have submitted, being able to demonstrate their expertise by answering questions, and growing their professional network.
As visitors explore articles and members engage with other business professionals, American Express keeps their logo in sight and access to their main menu at the top of the page. This will give them the advantage of being first on the minds of any business looking to open a line of credit – because American Express has established themselves as a brand that knows business through their publishing.
Business and marketing related brands are not the only ones who can use publishing to become a resource for their ideal clients. REI, the popular store chain for those who love the outdoors, goes beyond just selling equipment, clothing, and supplies. They publish expert advice on everything from backpacking to travel.
This online resource has everything the outdoor enthusiast would need – articles, videos, and even checklists to make sure they have exactly what they need for the adventure they are planning. Most of these pieces of content rank well in search, which helps them drive new targeted readers to their website.
REI then boosts sales by adding links to applicable products in their content, turning their new readers into new customers.
Now, let’s look at the flipside: publishers who have established themselves as well-known brands. Forbes is the one that comes to mind in the business world.
While mostly known for their successful print and online publications, both of which are monetized by advertising, they have expanded their reach beyond publishing. They have two products: the Forbes Wine Club and Forbes Identity Protection Services, both of which allow people who trust their publishing brand invest in a product they can trust as well. They also have eight conferences, generating revenue through sponsorships and invitation-only registrations. These conferences allow them to connect with the influential people who are both their readers and subject focuses.
Looking for a publisher that wasn’t established in the world of print before becoming a successful brand online? That would be Mashable. This wildly popular online publication covers business, social media, entertainment, and tech.
While Mashable’s online monetization is through advertising and licensing/reprints, they are also increasing their revenue with offline conferences such as the Social Good Summit and Media Summit. They even have a job board that businesses can pay to post openings within the online / tech world.
Leaving the business and marketing world again, a fun example of a publisher turned brand is The Oatmeal. This publisher of (sometimes offensive) comics has gone from online to print publisher with a few books based on his comic series. Because his humor is so unique, each comic easily receives over 10k shares on Facebook alone, helping him continuously gain new readers and ultimately, customers.
In addition, he sells posters and greeting cards, also based on his comics. His popularity could also lead to pay speaking gigs, if it hasn’t already.
Why Is This Happening
Brands are turning into publishers, and publishers are turning into brands. The question is why? The answer is simple.
For brands, it’s marketing. There are plenty of statistics out there that support the positive effect of content marketing on a business’s bottom line – TopRank Marketing has over 100 content marketing statistics for B2B businesses alone. Some businesses are able to truly capitalize on this trend by producing an amazing supply of content that attracts their target customer and ultimately converts them into leads.
Even if the readers do not convert into customers, they often do something that is just as important. They share the publisher’s content with their social network. Assuming the reader has a decent sized audience, this could lead to even more traffic from qualified readers and ultimately, qualified business prospects.
For publishers, it’s about monetization. The best way to grow revenue is by diversifying sources of income, and publishers do this well. They start with advertising for their online / print publications, then expand into areas that match their audience’s interests: conferences, products, services, and partnerships.
Can brands that mimic publishers and publishers that mimic brands have success? Absolutely! It really boils down to focusing on your audience – fine-tuning the content you develop for them, and then looking for ways to turn readers into customers. If your brand, business, or publication is struggling to earn income, look at the above examples and see if you can follow in their steps to utilize content in your revenue generation strategy.