|Marketers are increasing their investments in content marketing, two new studies show. The question publishers should be asking is, How much of this business can we win?
A study released this week by the Custom Content Council and ContentWise found that brands spent an average of more than $1.7 million on branded content this year, a 5.1 per cent increase over the previous two-year average. While overall marketing budges shrank in 2012, branded content grabbed a bigger piece of the pie: 39 per cent this year compared with the 27 per cent average in 2010/11. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they expect their branded content budgets to increase in the coming year, with the majority expecting flat spending.
A separate study also released this week by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs found that 86 per cent of consumer marketers are investing in content marketing, and 28 per cent of B2C marketing budgets are allocated to content marketing. In addition, more than half (55 per cent) of the respondents said they plan to increase content marketing spending over the next year.
More relevant for publishers is the share of branded content budgets that marketers are outsourcing. In the CCC study, more than half of the brands surveyed (54 per cent) said they outsourced at least part of their branded content creation to external agencies such as custom publishers, PR/social media firms, design firms, ad agencies, and interactive agencies.
Brands that outsourced content spent an average of close to $1 million with third-party firms, a 47 per cent increase over the prior period. Nearly one-third of that spend goes to publishers.
In the CMI/MarketingProfs study, 46 per cent of respondents said they outsource at least some of their content creation. Also of note to publishers are the challenges B2C marketers face: producing enough content and producing engaging content were two of the top issues, trailing only lack of budgets. In addition, just 32 per cent of respondents said they were effective at content marketing.
Filling the void
Publishers should be stepping up to fill this void, not simply with content development, but by offering a broad spectrum of multi-channel campaign tools and services. The combination of traditional editorial skills and emerging cross-platform distribution expertise should provide a compelling value proposition as publishers build out their content marketing service offerings.
Media companies such as Meredith have already invested heavily in marketing services businesses. Others, such as the Economist Group, are building out their offerings. "In the past, we were acting more like a combination of journalist and analyst who provides research in a well-written form, but now we moved to the agency forum," Elena Sukacheva, the Economist's VP of content marketing and strategy, told Digiday. "We work with clients very early and consult them on the type of communications to create." [Disclosure: I've done content-marketing project work for the Economist Intelligence Unit, part of the Economist Group.]
From Josh Sternberg's post:
According to Sukacheva, the Economist's content marketing team of 14 does everything from "A to Z" and acts like an agency, coming up with the brand's target audience and a content strategy that combines proposals on what kinds of issues - and content - the team will explore. The Economist's content marketing team will also explain to its clients how to present content (e.g., should it be a video or an infographic?).
"We provide a complete strategy and execute on it," said Sukacheva. "Sometimes clients might be interested in looking at the content produced internally and use that content on microsites, and we'll do content curation for them."
Other well-known brands such as Forbes, The Atlantic and, more recently, The Boston Globe have launched branded content services that enable advertisers to publish content directly to the publishers' web properties. B2B publishers such as UBM TechWeb and IDG have also significantly built out their content marketing offerings, with a comprehensive range of services including content mapping, content auditing and social media optimization.
With brands increasing their content marketing spending, publishers should compete aggressively for these dollars with innovative offerings that play off of their traditional strengths: content development and distribution.