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BY: AILEEN LAMB

Content marketing has its roots in custom publications, specifically John Deere’s The Furrow, which launched in 1895. Still in production today, the original brand magazine was ahead of its time, teaching farmers ways to be more profitable. Fast forward 125 years and value creation is still at the centre of what content marketers do. Only now, we’re operating in a world of rapid tech evolution and growing economic uncertainty.
The story of content marketing

Custom publishing started evolving into the platform-agnostic content marketing in the mid-2000s. New Media, which began operating as a custom publisher for brands in 1998, dropped the “Publishing” from its name in 2011 to signal its transition to a digital-first content agency.

Digital enabled the shift from assuming what customers wanted or needed to know – now they can tell us directly. Today, brands that listen to and engage in honest conversation with their customers are the ones excelling in the marketing game.

Over the past decade, the volume of content consumed on digital devices has increased at an incredible rate. And Covid-19 accelerated this even more, with much of the world confined to homes sometime during the 2020 global pandemic.

South African statistics showed a rapid increase in online traffic when lockdown started in March 2020. While this is slowly decreasing as the economy opens up, it remains high. As Covid-19 fatigue has set in, users have migrated from news channels to more localised content on what they can do and how during the adjusted lockdown regulations.

This has certainly been picked up on food brands. Food24 (owned by New Media) and Woolworths Taste saw a 78% and a 181% increase in unique users respectively when lockdown level 5 was in effect. This follows local and global trends, where isolation and social distancing have both necessitated far more home cooking and given people time to learn and experiment. Many South Africans were also seeking to recreate the magic of eating out at home.

SimilarWeb shows that visits to the top 100 cooking and recipes websites worldwide increased by 33% from February 2020 to April 2020. In terms of the South African audience, total visits for this category increased by a massive 86%, understandably, given the lack of food delivery options under Level 5 lockdown.

Chapter 2: from vanity metrics to true ROI

To connect with a customer, it’s clear that you have to offer them content that’s relevant to them on their preferred platform. There is a tendency to stop there though, to focus on views, shares, likes and comments. But content marketing, when measured correctly, should be linked to specific business outcomes and data collected from customer engagement through to point of sale and beyond.

When Taste adapted its content strategy in response to lockdown, it was not to increase sales, which might have been seen as profiteering off a crisis, it was to make the lives of the Woolworths shopper easier, supporting them with affordable, pantry-friendly recipes. We worked with keyword research, data from social media and data on top-selling products to predict and respond to trends.

This was so successful that Woolworths decided to continue posting Taste content to its own channels and, despite lockdown regulations easing, to continue featuring “lo-fi” made-at-home videos. Another result was that click-through rates on strategic content on Woolworths’ direct mailers peaked, with one content piece receiving a 66% CTR and another receiving 59.7% CTR in March.

An example of concrete ROI that directly ties to the bottom line is Vodacom. Calls to Vodacom’s customer care line have dropped by many thousands as a direct result of SEO-optimised how-to content on the Vodacom now! blog. Using a formula developed by the client, we’ve been able to determine that these posts save Vodacom around a quarter of a million rand a month. Vodacom customers – and, as a bonus, its competitors’ customers – are finding this content via Google.

How do you determine what’s of value to your client’s customers though? And how do you strategically plan your content to make sure it aligns with what they’re looking for, ultimately leading to ROI? Market research and consumer insights are key, and the digital revolution has allowed us to read people in a way print never could. Layering these insights into marketing calendars ensures a balance between what clients want and what their audiences need.

The data-driven digital journey we’ve taken has allowed us to continue adding value to our clients. Years ago, we began to work with them to purposively ramp up their digital migration. This has kept them relevant to consumers, diversified our portfolio and further reduced our dependency on print ad revenues.

The next chapter: from digital-first to interactive experience

New Media completed its acquisition of established tech solutions agency Swipe iX in June 2020. This brought the full-stack app and web development, and UX and interaction design into the stable.

Swipe iX also specialises in emerging technologies such as machine learning systems that target the most relevant content to those who would most benefit from it, and big data-powered gamification techniques that can help motivate interactions with content. Augmented and virtual reality platforms, as they continue to mature, will also play a much bigger part in creating immersive content experiences, as will the use of conversational agents in crafting interactive storytelling experiences.

If you provide customers with what they want and tailor it according to your business objectives, it’s a win-win. As the story of content marketing unfolds further, the ethical usage of data and emerging technologies will increasingly come into play, deepening the connection between brands and their customers.

Machine learning, AR, VR and the like are not just “cool”, they pack a real punch in terms of telling engaging brand stories, ultimately improving customer affinity and retention, even in the midst of a global crisis.

BY: AILEEN LAMB

Sourced from BIZCOMMUNITY

Sourced from Inc.

Mobile, social media, interactive, video—there’s no doubt that digital technologies get the lion’s share of buzz in the marketing world today. But here’s an interesting factoid revealed in FedEx Office’s Fourth Annual Signs of the Times Small Business Survey (Spring 2011): While many small business owners plan to reach existing and potential customers online and through social media, more than half (53 percent) intend to use more-traditional channels such as newsletters and direct mail.

What is the right mix of digital and print media for small and medium-sized businesses? Obviously, there’s no single right answer that covers all types of businesses in all kinds of industries, but there are strategies you can use to figure out what’s likely to work best for your company.

“Finding the right mix of print and digital is less about your business and more about your customers,” says Joellyn “Joey” Sargent, a principal in consulting firm BrandSprout. “Think about who they are, how they buy, where they go.” Understanding those things will help you determine how to reach customers with a mix of print and digital that provides the greatest visibility in the right places.

Look for the ability to create multiple impressions in a variety of venues to get the best ROI from your marketing programs, Sargent suggests. Avoid wasting money on marketing programs that won’t reach your target customers by first doing research to ensure that any opportunity you are considering will actually help you connect, online or off.

Determining value

Beyond having a solid understanding of your customer and your marketing objectives, budget and timing will quickly narrow things down to determine the best options for reach, frequency, and impact, says Robbin Block, marketing strategist at Blockbeta Marketing. The type of business and/or product is important because leveraging existing communications channels can be a key part of a marketing strategy. “The opportunity cost—the value of the other thing you could be doing—is a critical part of the trade-off decision” when choosing between media alternatives, she says.

One example of print media that is still successful in this digital age is direct mail, says Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing at The UPS Store, which has been collaborating with the U.S. Postal Service on Every Door Direct Mail since last fall. “The results are trackable, and both our franchisees and their small business customers who have used it have seen results—new customers and repeat business,” she says.

Direct mail remains a go-to tactic for many SMBs because it is effective, and the rapid spread of digital marketing may be helping to keep it relevant. “People receive so many digital messages all day now, while their stack of mail is getting smaller and smaller,” Van Slyke says. “A direct mail piece stands out. It gets noticed, it gets read, and its offers and coupons get used.”

No matter what the mix, all types of media should be used together in a complementary manner in what’s come to be known as integrated marketing, says Kevin Kelly, chief creative operative at BigBuzz Marketing Group. “Digital and traditional media should be treated the same. It all comes down to reach, frequency, and engagement,” he says. “If digital and interactive aren’t part of your traditional plan by now, you should fold up your tent and go home.”

Sourced from Inc.

By 

This story was delivered to BI Intelligence “Digital Media Briefing” subscribers hours before appearing on Business Insider. To be the first to know, please click here.

Google unveiled Auto ads, a new ad unit for AdSense, its ad placement service for publishers, to help publishers streamline ad placement on their pages.

Auto ads use machine learning to determine potential ad locations, types, and number of ads, while preserving the user experience, according to Google. Auto ads include formats like in-feed, display, and full-screen mobile ads, and can be integrated into publisher pages with a single line of code.

Auto ads are attractive to publishers for two key reasons:

  • They minimize the resources publishers spend on ad placement. Publishers don’t need to devote as much staff to optimizing ad placement on their pages, as Auto ads will use machine learning and analytics to “teach” the system where to best place ads in the future, according to TechCrunch.
  • And they can help publishers better monetize their content. Auto ads may cause publishers to test ad placements in areas on their pages they might not have tested otherwise, and this can result in higher monetization. For example, some publishers participating in the beta testing of Auto ads saw average revenue increases of 5-15%, per MediaPost.

Auto ads can positively impact publishers’ bottom lines, given AdSense is already used by tens of millions of publishers. Publishers are likely looking for additional ways to monetize their content amid Facebook’s recent News Feed tweak that de-prioritizes their posts, which could hurt publishers’ ability to generate ad revenue on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the release of Auto ads helps increase Google’s influence over the digital ad environment. Although publishers can always opt out of using the tool, Google gains control over the types and number of ads publishers implement when they do use auto ads. This can help in Google’s efforts to minimize the number of annoying ad experiences publishers serve, which can ultimately encourage users to keep browsing for content on the open web and not in the walled gardens of other platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

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By 

Sourced from Business Insider UK

 

By Lucia Moses

Few images better capture the unfettered optimism and indignity of digital media than 2014 at South by Southwest, where a line of hoodie-wearing attendees snaked around the block at Mashable House, a pop-up lounge run by the tech news site, to get their picture taken with Grumpy Cat. Nearby, AOL “digital prophet” Shingy swung on a Mashable-branded wrecking ball.

It was also a good time to be at Mashable, when it was still true to its founding in 2005 by a 19-year-old Scot named Pete Cashmore as a blog about social media but showing big ambitions. Traffic was on the upswing. The company wasn’t making fistfuls of profits, but it wasn’t losing money, either. It had just closed its first round of funding, $13.3 million led by Updata Partners. Former New York Times assistant managing editor Jim Roberts had joined the company to lead a more ambitious editorial agenda.

Success in digital media requires doing a million things right, though, and Mashable seems to have fumbled a number of them. Former employees and observers cite a loss of editorial focus and unique identity, lack of financial controls, an ill-executed shift to video content and hesitance to diversify revenue away from the fickle ad market. Mashable wouldn’t make executives available for this story.

BuzzFeed envy
All this time, people at Mashable were closely watching BuzzFeed, which like Mashable, started with a focus on light, sharable content, but had hired Ben Smith from Politico to build a serious newsgathering operation. The meme coverage that built Mashable was becoming commoditized. So Mashable used its new capital to hire Roberts and other pedigreed journalists.

Soon, there were stories on terrorism and Ukraine leading the homepage, a big change for a site better known for covering social media and internet memes. Whether it was the increased editorial resources, Facebook’s generosity or both, Mashable’s traffic soared to over 27 million monthly uniques in December 2015, according to comScore.

The shift was debated internally, though, and caused friction between Roberts’ new hires and pre-existing staffers.

“It came from Pete on down — ‘What’s going to be our version of Ben Smith?’” a former insider said. “’They got Ben Smith, so we need someone,’” said another, describing the philosophy. “’They started BuzzFeed Studios; let’s start Mashable Studios.’ I’m surprised they didn’t call it ‘MashFeed’ at some point.” But as an ex-editorial staffer said, the pivot to general news made Mashable a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Everyone was aware BuzzFeed was beating us on stuff, and the tech pubs didn’t take us seriously.”

Doug Rozen, chief digital and innovation officer at OMD, said he sees small or midsize publishers run into trouble when they change their editorial mandate. Ambition is a good thing until it becomes a cover for trying to be everything to everyone. Mashable was serving a need as a go-to resource as social media marketing took off. But was it serving a need being yet another publication covering general news?

“It’s good if it extends beyond the core, but it’s hard when you keep changing the core,” he said. “One thing publishers need to do is work with their sales team to say they were going beyond their editorial core. Too often, publishers take for granted that if they created the news, the audience and the buyers would follow.”

Runaway expenses
In the early days, Mashable was like any scrappy startup, crammed in a small office, but with a camaraderie and sense of fun. People brought their dogs to the office. There was a Twitter feed devoted to a mouse that ran around the office. People applauded snarkily when someone left early. Still, the company was breaking even.

The company took a long time to take outside money, but once it did, everything changed. In 2014, armed with its first round of funding, Mashable started spending it. The thing about venture capital is, investors don’t give it to companies to sit on it for a rainy day; they want it deployed — and fast.

Mashable moved into swank offices on Fifth Avenue near New York City’s Union Square befitting a well-funded startup. The fully stocked kitchen had a cereal bar, snacks, fresh cheeses, beer on tap and a wine fridge. Like a lot of media companies, Mashable also opened an office in Los Angeles, where its video studio was housed. There was a living plant wall, with its own attendant. At its peak, the company had more than 300 people and was in seven countries, including the U.K., India and Australia.

“You had all this venture capital money flowing in, so media companies were acting like tech startups,” said someone familiar with the company. Mashable was hawking its own tech platform, Velocity, which it used to figure out what topics were going viral. The idea was it would get brands and agencies to license Velocity. (VCs love recurring software licensing fees.)

Like many publishers, Mashable rose with Facebook and felt the pain when Facebook started sending it less traffic. In 2015, there was a Facebook correction. By June 2017, Mashable’s traffic had declined to 13 million, less than half its peak. Mashable signaled its pivot to video in 2015 as the easy traffic from Facebook was starting to end and the display market was buckling under the weight of the Facebook-Google duopoly. But even here, insiders point to BuzzFeed as the impetus, with executives laser-focused on the success of Tasty, BuzzFeed’s food video offshoot.

But Mashable soon ran into execution challenges. There were three groups creating video, all competing for attention in Facebook’s news feed. The newsroom was making serious news videos, as a part of the general news mandate, but they weren’t audience- and advertising-friendly. The company also would drop 30-second pre-roll ads in front of videos, which didn’t help viewership, an ex-staffer said. But with video, as with text, much bigger competitors dwarfed Mashable. For example, in the 90 days that ended on Sept. 21, Mashable had 339 million video views on Facebook to BuzzFeed’s 11.9 billion and HuffPost’s 771 million, according to Tubular Labs.

Return to roots
Mashable’s general news experiment ended in 2016 as it replaced Roberts and cut an estimated 30 staffers while reverting to its core coverage of subjects like tech, web culture and social media. The company was fresh from raising $15 million led by Turner, its third round, and had a deal to develop video for Turner.

Like most digital media, Mashable was all but entirely reliant on advertising revenue. It finally got into commerce content earlier this year, long after other publishers made the move. By the time it moved into general news, BuzzFeed had a three-year head start. That hesitation and earlier missteps cost Mashable. In addition to Roberts, a string of top executives left in the past couple years, including CRO Seth Rogin, chief strategy officer Adam Ostrow and CMO Stacy Martinet, which doesn’t help a company’s ability to hone its message. It grew revenue 36 percent to $42 million in 2016, but not enough to offset $10 million in losses, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Last week, the Journal reported that Mashable would be sold to Ziff Davis for $50 million, one-fifth of its one-time value and below what CNN was believed to have offered for it in 2012.

Perhaps one of the lessons is, some media companies aren’t meant to become huge in the first place. Cashmore is given credit for having a great idea in Mashable, but even fans acknowledge he was an inexperienced founder, described as quiet and focused on the product side, in contrast to the more public-facing digital media CEOs like Jonah Peretti of BuzzFeed and Jim Bankoff of Vox Media. Once it took funding, Mashable faced big expectations to return profits for investors, but struggled to figure out what it was.

In fairness, Mashable wasn’t alone in chasing funding on unrealistic growth promises. And it likely will not be alone in facing the music when the metric for success is no longer the ability to raise another venture round but the mastery of finding a sustainable business model. With Facebook handing out referral traffic to publishers left and right, an insider said, “It really seemed like there was this moment when Mashable, Vox and Mic were going to become the next New York Times.”

The rise and decline have left current and former employees angry, sad and frustrated about a former media darling they believe helped define digital publishing.

“It gets me in the door,” said Josh Catone, who was executive director of editorial projects at Mashable until 2014. “I think people associate it with, ‘They know digital media.’ I don’t know how long that lasts, though.”

By Lucia Moses

Sourced from DIGIDAY UK

By Jessica Davies

The European Union’s new ePrivacy regulation is becoming a nightmare for the digital media and advertising industries.

It’s easy to confuse the ePrivacy regulation with the General Data Protection Regulation, a broader law addressing consumer data privacy that has dominated the market’s attention lately. The core difference is that cookie use is central to the ePrivacy regulation, which is why it’s known as the “cookie law.” Businesses in Europe must get explicit consent to use cookies and provide clear opt-outs to users under the proposed new law. Meanwhile, the GDPR regulates the general handling of personal data.

The new ePrivacy law has received far less attention than the GDPR, partly because the regulation hasn’t been set in stone, and ad trade bodies were confident they could water down the terms. But their optimism was dented last week when the European Parliament voted for the law to go to the next stage, ignoring any lobbying to date. Businesses ignore ePrivacy at their own peril because the fines for flouting it will mirror those for the GDPR.

Who will emerge as winners and losers of the new ePrivacy law isn’t black and white. In truth, everyone stands to lose something. Here’s a breakdown.

Losers:

Behavioral advertising

Cookies are at the core of all behavioral marketing and advertising, with advertisers using them to build a picture of people’s interests by tracking which websites they visit. Once someone visits a site that shows one of their ads, they can tailor the ad’s message to cater to the person’s inferred interests. The new ePrivacy law would require advertisers to gain explicit consent for every cookie they drop, burdening any vendor that provides ad retargeting and any media or marketing business that uses retargeting. The law would also curb Facebook’s and Google’s ability to collect and use consumer data, restricting them from targeting ads based on data from over-the-top services like WhatsApp, Gmail and Messenger, unless they receive consent from individuals across each service.

Third-party cookie addicts
Many varieties of cookies exist, but third-party cookies are in the most direct firing line of the new ePrivacy law because they’re most commonly used in online advertising. Advertisers drop cookies when people visit their sites to build behavioral profiles, which can then be used for retargeting. Under the new ePrivacy law, using cookies for this purpose is labeled intrusive and an invasion of privacy. In theory, businesses that cultivate login registrations from users will fare better than those reliant on third-party cookies.

A/B testers (aka everyone) 
The ePrivacy law proposal doesn’t distinguish between different kinds of cookies, but it would be better for everyone if it did. For example, publishers use “non-tracking” cookies for A/B testing new features and products on their sites with users, storing the test groups to which visitors are randomly assigned. This allows publishers to get an idea of which user experience people prefer and helps shape future product and user-experience rollouts. This kind of cookie facilitates a better user experience and helps personalize website experiences.

Winners:

Cookie banner haters
Europeans are familiar with the annoying cookie banners that appear on websites within the 28 EU member states, courtesy of the existing ePrivacy law. The new law would eliminate these banners, which aren’t a great user experience. That said, it’s unclear how else websites would communicate to consumers why cookies are needed so consumers can grant consent.

Login registration strategies
Quality publishers won’t get a free ride under the new ePrivacy law. Given their use of cookies in their marketing and advertising, they will be subject to the same hurdles as everyone else — including Google, Facebook and other walled gardens. But it would be easier to gain consumer opt-in at scale for companies that have mounds of login customers and claim a genuine direct relationship with consumers. Any publisher that can demonstrate what the value exchange is for consumers should also be in a better position, as people would likely be more willing to give consent.

Browsers
Whether browsers will be winners under the new law depends on who you speak to. German publishers like Axel Springer believe browsers could bend the new rules to their own advantage, which could result in publishers being held ransom over consent settings — like paying a fee to be whitelisted in the settings, for example. Others suggest that browser makers could shoulder additional costs for developing software with built-in privacy settings due to the changes.

Telecommunications companies
Some silver lining exists for telecommunications companies, which have long been wary of OTT services piggybacking off their networks and reducing their role to dumb pipes. Although telecommunications companies won’t get special treatment, they would at least be on a more level playing field with OTT services than before.

By Jessica Davies

Sourced from DIGIDAY UK

By MediaStreet Staff Writers

In an age where digital media is constantly changing, public relations practitioners and business professionals still see the benefits of traditional media coverage. This is according to study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia.

The study finds those who use news sources to convey certain information about their products prefer independent media coverage.

Lynne Sallot is a professor of public relations of Journalism and Mass Communication. She says, “We have this intuitive idea that getting our messages covered by the news media makes those messages more credible than when we put them out there ourselves. Everyone believes this, but it’s been difficult to prove it.”

Independent media coverage is a more traditional form of news content like a TV broadcast, newspaper article or radio show, whereas more controlled sources of media are paid media such as advertisements or an organisation’s own website.

Pauline Howes is an associate professor of communications, and conducted the research. She says, “When asked directly, public relations practitioners and businesspeople in this study said they see independent media coverage as more credible than controlled, or paid, media. This seems to support the value of news coverage as part of a communications plan.

“Both types of communication are used by businesspeople, but an independent source may be viewed by audiences as having more credibility because it is not controlled or influenced by the subject of a story.”

When determining what goes into a business’s story, the editors and producers behind these independent news sources have no vested interest in the company or its products.

Differing from past experimental studies, this research looked at real world perceptions by interviewing public relation practitioners as well as business professionals.

Says Sallot, “There is some truth that to some audiences, messages covered by the media are more important. Until now, most of the research has suggested that that’s not true.”

Because of the conducted interviews, Howes and Sallot were able to get more personal feedback from those in the field. This study supported the belief that corporate/ PR messages that are carried by news media do have enhanced news credibility.