Why Every Company is a Media Company


Imagine planning a vacation in Sedona, Arizona. When you’re looking for the best advice on where to eat, hike, or spend a day at the spa, you’ll likely find yourself flipping through the pages of a travel magazine or browsing articles online. Sure enough, you find the suggestions you are looking for and start booking your vacation.

You might guess that the article you are reading appears in Travel + Leisure or Conde Nast Traveler. But you actually read Airbnbmaga branded magazine partnership that combines Airbnb’s travel information with the power of Hearst’s world-class magazine production.

Airbnbmag is an example of how branded content transforms the way brands engage their audience. When the publication launched in 2017, Airbnb was valued at around $30 billion– but its leaders knew that mere competition in the hotel space is no longer enough to ensure long-term success.

To foster loyalty among brand advocates, Airbnb needed to bolster its high-end lifestyle brand image, a challenge Hearst Magazines had already mastered for 25 national magazines with more than 300 global editions. The partnership proved lucrative for Hearst and opened up new opportunities for Airbnb to compete with traditional travel brands in media.

Today, successful brands see themselves as media companies by investing in premium content that performs well across multiple platforms, reduces audience fragmentation, and engages customers in meaningful dialogue.

Cross-platform content will replace single-channel brands

Businesses that rely solely on a website and traditional advertising to hold their audience’s attention will quickly fall behind. Today’s media landscape demands a cross-platform approach with multiple touchpoints to connect with consumers.

Brands compete today in a flattened media landscape. When people consume content online, in print, on podcasts, or via video, they are more likely to care about the quality of the content than who created it or even where it appears.

Media companies and traditional businesses are adjusting their idea of ​​where, how and why content is created and published. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are designed to make branded content as relevant and accessible as content from a friend or media company. In fact, the distinction between branded and unbranded content is so fine that the Federal Trade Commission has developed new guidelines that crack down on brands that disguise the promotional purpose behind their content.

To cope with this change, brands are increasingly adopting a cross-platform approach. Instead of building a branded blog or Instagram profile, smart businesses are repurposing their content and optimizing assets for multiple platforms. A successful brand is instantly recognizable no matter where its content appears.

For example, Marriott is investing heavily in a global brand studio that nimbly creates content to engage millions of people around the world. By hiring media professionals, Marriott uses creativity and storytelling to create memorable premium content that engages its audience.

In 2015, Marriott produced a 24-minute short titled french kiss about an American business traveler who stays at a Paris Marriott only to be drawn into a romantic cat-and-mouse pursuit with a mischievous Frenchwoman.

In a one-channel approach, Marriott could have published french kiss on its website and waiting for people to find out. Instead, the film was released on YouTube, where it garnered over 6.2 million views. french kiss was also screened at a gala held at the Marina del Rey Marriott in Los Angeles, played in theaters, and became an in-room entertainment option on Marriott’s televisions and website. Starting with a piece of content, Marriott launched a cross-platform campaign that reached its audience through a wide variety of online and in-person channels.

Any business investing in premium content should maximize their initial investment by taking a cross-platform approach.

Content must reach fragmented audiences

Today, people are consuming more content across a wider range of platforms than ever before. According to Nielsen, American adults spend up to 11 hours consuming media each day, including up to six hours of video content split between streaming platforms, mobile apps, traditional TV and websites. As the recent wave of layoffs in the media industry shows, this fragmentation presents serious challenges for content producers.

Traditional targeted advertising still plays an important role in content creation. Before brands invest in content like Marriott’s short film, they need to verify the audience data that informs them where content should be targeted and what should be created first. While Marriott business travelers might enjoy his short film, other companies might attract an audience that wants to snuggle up with a magazine or listen to a podcast at the gym.

Content should be published and optimized for the platforms where your audience naturally congregate, directly engaging the people most likely to share it.

For example, Panera Bread, the popular sandwich and bakery chain, recently launched a new labeling system to help customers understand how its foods support healthy eating. Panera Bread used this seemingly trivial administrative change as the catalyst behind Interrupted fooda new six-episode digital video series with content released weekly.

In addition to posting the episodes on a mini website dedicated to the project, Panera Bread has embraced the fact that food content is a mainstay on Instagram, which has over 319 million posts with the “food” hashtag.

For his Interrupted food campaign, Panera Bread repurposed video clips from the series as Instagram posts for its 477,000 followers, using a brand hashtag. The strategy worked: One Instagram video of a recipe for baking whole grain bread attracted nearly 17,000 views. The video was shot in the same style as the popular BuzzFeed video Tasty series, showing easy-to-follow instructions paired with an overhead view of a person’s hands going through each step.

Panera Bread’s savvy content strategy leveraged its existing audience presence on Instagram to create content optimized for the platform. Although viewers have always flocked to the Interrupted food website to watch full episodes featuring celebrities like Marcus Samuelsson and Rainn Wilson, those who didn’t migrate from Instagram still had the option to directly engage with optimized versions of the platform’s video content .

Content should spark authentic dialogue with the audience

Brands should use content to directly engage their audience, incorporating feedback from readers and viewers to enrich the content itself.

Most newspapers and magazines feature a Letters to the Editor section that invites readers to share their own opinions and ideas. Likewise, brands can leverage user-generated content to engage in public dialogue with loyal fans.

Vans provides a smart example of how user-generated social media content can enhance an e-commerce website. The California-based shoe company sells personalized shoes and backpacks, allowing customers to select colors and materials and even upload their own designs. E-commerce pages selling these products prominently feature Instagram posts of user-generated custom designs.

By inviting fans to post images of their personalized products and rewarding them with a spot on the company’s website, Vans is using the content to prove that it doesn’t just talk to customers, but also listens to them and appreciates their contributions.

Brands can even chat with each other to get fans’ attention. On Twitter, brands such as MoonPie, Wendy’s and Denny’s have all mastered the witty banter that tends to go viral on the platform. The brands’ social media exchanges regularly receive media coverage and thousands of shares and likes from fans. The Twitter content these brands post is genuinely smart and engaging, and some posts are memorable enough to spark a conversation that lasts for hours or even days, like MoonPie’s response to a photo of a “Mooncake” on the official NASA Twitter.

Content does not require an explicit sales objective if it improves overall customer awareness and experience with a brand. As online platforms encourage direct engagement between brands and followers, content should be an opportunity for authentic dialogue.

Investing in content pays dividends

To win new customers and further retain existing customers, brands need to invest in high-quality content.

Companies are increasingly partnering with media to produce branded video series, editorially rigorous magazines and ambitious audio shows. These partnerships generate subtly branded and highly creative content, reaching the same level of quality that audiences expect from unbranded content.

For businesses that don’t have the budget to jump into a premium content partnership, there are still plenty of ways to create content like a media company. Online brand partnerships with influencers can tap into new audiences in an era of increasing fragmentation, and all businesses can repurpose their content for multiple channels to maximize the value of every asset they create.

To stand out in today’s media landscape, companies need to accept the reality that “content is king” and start investing in high-quality media that uses audience insights and advocates. brand to inform, entertain and build customer loyalty.

Cathy W. Howerton