Publisher-as-Agency? Nothing Wrong with That

We’ve been talking for some time about how brands are becoming publishers. We’ve also been hearing about how publishers are becoming agencies. Not everyone is happy with this evolution.

Scott Donaton, chief content officer at Digitas, recently stated his case for why publishers should stop “masquerading” as ad agencies. Donaton seems unhappy that publishers are launching brand studios or building out existing marketing services operations to create custom content for brands, which he sees as needlessly encroaching on agencies’ turf.

Publishers, he contends, are “simply not built to engage with brands at a high-touch level on a continuous basis, which is the primary purpose of agencies.”

I disagree. At IDG, that’s precisely what we have built. Our Strategic Marketing Services (SMS) group (shameless plug alert) has created a services model designed to support the entire content marketing lifecycle – from ideation to execution to distribution to measurement.

The publisher-as-agency model brings significant value to a brand’s content marketing programs in the form of:

  • Editorial expertise: A deep understanding of the target market, combined with a journalistic approach to storytelling, is embedded in publishers’ DNA. The most successful publishers are adept, as Donaton notes, at building affinity for their media brands. Now, content studios such as IDG SMS are using the same formula to help brands create a content strategy that is credible and authentic, while aligning with the brand’s unique brand voice and messaging.
  • Operational efficiencies: Decades of experience publishing magazines and websites provide a foundation for content development and distribution across the digital ecosystem. The right structure, processes, and workflows are critical to creating high-quality content and related services, at scale, that engage the target audience and keep them coming back for more. This core operational competence is a significant benefit to brands that struggle to deliver a steady cadence of quality content.
  • Audience insights: A publisher’s first-party audience data, combined with social listening and other third-party tools, help brands develop a comprehensive picture of their target audience across all channels – not just the publisher’s own websites. For B2B marketers, the ability to understand where decision-makers are on the purchase path, combined with an understanding of the content that resonates best with them during each stage, is the key to successful content marketing.

Donaton acknowledges that agencies and publishers are far better off collaborating rather than competing as the landscape shifts. “If agencies and media companies trade blows over who’s the better content partner, they’ll both wind up weakened,” he writes. “If they come together to create better solutions, they’ll deliver a more powerful punch.”

We’re in agreement there. At IDG, we have worked on countless successful programs with technology brands and their agencies. (Here’s one.) Increasingly, they view us less as a production house and more as a strategic partner to help them define content strategy, create a multichannel distribution approach, and measure the results – in addition to developing great content.

Technology marketers should welcome this evolution. I, for one, look forward to see where we take it from here. Share your thoughts with me at @roboregan.


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