The evolution of brands into media companies in a content-rich world

By Russell Pierpoint, Managing Director at Evolved Media Solutions

There has been a totemic shift in publishing over the past ten years. So much so, it’s hard to define exactly who a publisher is these days! One of our clients, The National Theatre, is a case in point here as it sees itself as a fairly prolific publisher, but it is clearly far from the traditional definition. As Toby Coffey, Head of Digital at the National Theatre, explains, this stems from its content-led marketing strategy and the launch of its ‘Backstage’ app, which we built for them. As a result, every month they are now delivering hours of content to their app – be it written, video, photos or audio.

It’s this growth in content that is driving this change. The most up-to-date figures from AOL/Nielsen in 2013 state that 27 million pieces of content are shared every day and I can only assume that this has shifted significantly upwards in the past two years. For consumers, the number of places they go to for information has exploded – a daily newspaper fix often replaced by a minute-by-minute Twitter update on global headlines. And where they may have visited brand websites for a ‘shop window’ on products, now they are consuming news and videos, downloading podcasts onto their devices and much more. Indeed, many brand websites are now indistinguishable from media websites.

Take Coke as another example. Its website, while clearly Coke-centric, is a multi-faceted communications vehicle that enables the brand to engage far more deeply with consumers than was conceivable just a few years ago. It tackles issues (such as problems around obesity) head on, with news about research into the issue and what the brand is doing to counteract it; product news and videos of new ad campaigns are balanced with news about Coke’s 5by20 initiative to empower female entrepreneurs and about volunteering for the Special Olympics (sponsored by Coke). It may not be BBC News, but Coke is a bona fide publisher of content that is clearly giving consumers what they want if the size of Coke’s social media following is anything to go by.

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The opportunity this approach provides advertisers to develop the kind of deep relationship that readers and subscribers have with publishers is incredibly exciting. It’s one that brands should be jumping on, but it can seem complex and daunting. However, technology is evolving fast and becoming increasingly user-centric. Below are four ways in which brands of any size can harness the power of this new technology in order to join the publishing revolution:

Integrate to elevate your content

Content tools such as Adobe Digital Publishing Solution (DPS) allow marketers and designers to create platforms for their content and publish engaging mobile app experiences. If the likes of WoodWing’s cloud-based HTML5 authoring tool, Inception, is then integrated into this, brands can easily create beautiful, responsive content for any channel without the need for developers. The straightforward controls in the system also mean that the content created will fully reflect brand guidelines too.

Make it about the consumer

Brands need to think beyond how technology can make their lives easier. Equal, if not more important, is looking at how technology can make it easier for consumers to consume and engage with that content. For instance, with Adobe DPS it’s possible to allow a consumer to instantly access streamed content whenever they open an app rather than having to download it. In addition, it makes it possible for them to personalize the content they see and how they want to discover and collate it, depending on their interests.

Don’t put it off

Adopting a content-led, publisher style approach for a brand can seem overwhelming – especially from a standing start. However, once you have your strategy agreed, it can be a relatively quick process to create a bespoke content platform if you have the right team in process. When we built the National Theatre app it took two of us five weeks to build it from start to finish – with me creating the app and configuring it, preparing it for submission to Apple (for the App Store) and taking it through that process. The other team member worked on WoodWing Inception, defining and creating all the CSS styling (specifying how the content should look) for the HTML5 content in the backstage part of the app. That’s not long to wait for something that is set to have a significant impact on the business, enabling the National Theatre to engage with global audiences and ultimately create a new revenue stream through premium content

Get creative

We are only just scratching the surface in terms of other new and exciting ways in which technology can deliver ever-more creative content, such as geolocation, gyroscope and virtual reality. Back at the National Theatre, Toby Coffey’s team is clearly having great fun stretching the boundaries of creativity in content development; for instance, creating fascinating 360 degree photography of costumes (costumes are one of the top content subjects at the National Theatre) and producing lenticular-based imagery that make it possible for fans of the theatre’s dual-cast Frankenstein production to morph Jonny Lee Miller’s face into Benedict Cumberbatch’s by tilting the phone left and right – making the publication page go viral. They are also developing interactive backgrounds, and their latest wonderland programme features a gyroscope which allows the user to control a zombie arcade game.

However, while not all brands or publishers have access to A-list stars, the opportunities for consumer engagement and brand building through great content, delivered by new technology, are the same. Whether you’re creating an annual report, luxury magazine, website or app, today’s content tools mean we can all be fantastic storytellers – and if you can tell an interesting and relevant story, your audience will listen.

 

Question for our readers (please answer in the comments section below):

How has the massive shift of content consumption on mobile changed the way your customers engage with your brand?

Digital Strategy, Industry Trends, Media and Entertainment