Media paywalls provide a marketing opportunity for brands

Your organization can become a media company with targeted content for consumers.

A growing number of companies recognize that there is a compelling business need to become media companies.

Dell and Intel have online feature magazines. Google has become the publisher of a high-end print magazine. Best Buy has established a multimedia content channel. Airvana and UPS are among companies that have begun curating content for their audiences.

Being a media company once meant you produced, distributed or sold media; it was how your company made money. In the current media environment, though, organizations that earn their keep through other means need to think of themselves as media companies, too.

As the number of mainstream media channels through which companies can tell their stories continues to shrink, and the number of reporters at news organizations declines, you need to think about taking matters into your own hands in order to get your stories into the public consciousness.

The paywalls that mainstream media outlets increasingly are raising around their content could represent a tremendous boon to corporate content. While news organizations struggle to find ways to make a buck from the content they produce, other companies have no interest in selling theirs. Producing content is a cost of doing business that, when executed well, should produce a return on investment in the form of increased sales and other valuable business outcomes.

The UK newspaper The Guardian is bucking the trend among news organizations to limit readers’ ability to share content. The more content is freely shared, after all, the more money the organization loses. Last year, however, The Guardian introduced a WordPress plugin that allows bloggers “to post Guardian articles directly to your blog.” For most news companies, that’s the equivalent of throwing bundles of money into a wood chipper.

Because editors can no longer simply share their content, they’re being forced to market their articles “and sell people on why they should pay” for it, says Drake University multimedia journalism professor Chris Snider, as quoted in a Mashable article.

An opportunity companies should leap on

Useful, credible, entertaining content can replace some of the material news organizations are blocking behind their paywalls.

Organizations need to shift their media thinking from collateral (designed to support the immediate sale of product) to journalism (telling a story people are actually interested in). Consider Intel’s Free Press. Most of the stories there are not about Intel. They’re about topics a technology or business publication would cover and, in the course of their reporting, would interview someone from Intel or discover that Intel played a part in the story. (This piece about how wineries use technology is a great example.)

By hiring independent journalists (who come reasonably priced these days, given the employment situation in the world of journalism) to produce the material—as Dell and Google, among others, have done—companies can add even more credibility (not to mention variety) to their home-grown reporting.

Companies also need to do a better job of configuring their content to be shared. Tweets and Facebook “like” buttons abound, but I haven’t seen the equivalent of the Guardian’s WordPress plug-in on a single business-owned online property, and few organizations seem willing to house their content on sharing sites like Scribd and SlideShare.

By addressing these issues—credibility, usefulness, quality and ease of sharing—company-produced material could replace some of the mainstream articles that are no longer available as content-hungry consumers grow more accustomed to home-grown media.

News media paywalls add a compelling argument to the case for your company to start thinking like a media company—without the paywalls.

Topics: PR

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