Great content is nothing if it can't be found

The Drum has partnered with programmatic platform PulsePoint for a series of short video primers and accompanying features in print exploring the meaning and value of content marketing. In the second of the series, PulsePoint head of sales Ben Pheloung outlines why distribution is key to maximising investment in content.

Content marketing is fast-becoming an established tent-pole in many brands’ communications plan.

The Content Marketing Association estimates that the industry is worth around £5bn in the UK alone, more if you include native content, growing 25 per cent year on year.

Great content, such as articles and videos that can entertain, inform, educate or excite, can help marketers cut through. But, according to Pulsepoint’s head of demand EMEA Ben Pheloung, too often marketers focus on content creation in isolation without thinking about where those videos, audios or articles will be seen, heard or read.

The myth of being able to produce content and ‘they will find it’ is certainly not true today, if it ever was, Pheloung advises.

A brand must invest as much strategic effort into distributing content assets as it does in creating them. Or, as former BuzzFeed vice-president Jonathan Perelman once remarked, “content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants.”

Pheloung says: “Great content is nothing if it cannot be found – and that’s why distribution is key to maximising investment.”

Both earned distribution channels, such as social networks, and paid distribution channels should be leveraged to make the most of the content a brand has paid to produce, in addition to its owned channels.

“Brands do not spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to produce beautiful 30 second ad executions and expect audiences to find it ‘virally’ on YouTube. They buy TV and digital space as well as seeding through their social media channels – and the same should be true of content marketing,” adds Pheloung.

Distribution’s importance has led the CMA to introduce a “best distribution strategy” gong to its annual International Content Marketing Awards this year for the first time.

In addition to seeding through social networks, brands should look at content discovery platforms, such as Outbrain and Taboola, that sit at the bottom of a publisher’s page. Outbrain says it serves 180bn recommendations and reaches 550 million people a month. Taboola, which serves 1.5bn recommendations a day, says it has 400 million monthly unique visitors.

And then there is native content; paid media that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears, and which for many has come to represent the whole of content marketing itself – a myth put paid to in the first episode of EYNTK about Content Marketing. Whereas content marketing is the message, native ‘can’ be the envelope that that message is delivered in. eMarketer predicts that spending on native ads will reach $5.7bn in the US this year.

Publishers, including the Guardian, BBC Worldwide, the Economist, The Drum and the New York Times, are increasingly investing in ‘labs’ or newsrooms to create commercial content in keeping with that publisher’s own editorial standards.

Lee Gibson, the UK and Ireland head of sales at Outbrain, recommends distributing budgets thinly across a wide media base. “Social media is easy to use and so it often becomes the only way people market content, but you need to focus on using multiple distribution methods,” he says.

The best content marketing will include link building with high-quality websites through guest blog posting, video marketing and influencers. “There are so many channels out there that it’s important to understand what works and resonates with your customers – be that Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or specific forums,” he adds.

A smart company might use all three methods of distribution in tandem – investing in native advertising and further supporting it through paid content discovery and earned promotion across its social networks and home-grown, owned platforms.

Clare Hill, managing director of the Content Marketing Association, says: “Distribution – be it paid, owned and/or earned – is integral to the success of a campaign.” She adds: “Campaigns will have a healthy mix – and that’s relevant not just to distribution but the [content marketing] strategy full stop. Rather than the industry asking which area should we be investing in – paid, owned or earned, we see it as an amalgamation of all those aspects.”

The biggest challenge to date has been that distribution is often fragmented, and scale hard to achieve, but advances in ad tech and programmatic solutions are helping to solve this. Pheloung says that for the first time one-to-one content marketing can be delivered at scale, and points to the way digital display ads are increasingly traded programmatically as a parallel.

Such solutions can also help marketers efficiently measure engagement and effectiveness, a subject the next episode of EYNTK about Content Marketing will tackle.

Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing is the second EYNTK series from The Drum, designed to help viewers get up to speed with some of the most important issues in today’s marketing industry in one short film – something they can watch in the back of a taxi on the way to their next crucial meeting on the subject. You can watch the first three episodes of the series at our EYNTK hub.

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