Marketing is too easy

So many traditional media businesses have an overwhelming desire to move towards Facebook and Twitter and and and and…. The logic runs like this: “They’re killing our business, so we need to play by their rules, so let’s get a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, a Foursquare promotion, etc etc”

Image from Lords of the Jungle

Image from Lords of the Jungle

The problem is, the most obvious thing to do on these platforms is to join the marketing chatter. Talk about stuff, point at stuff, make friends, watch their stuff, and send them some of your stuff.

For brands this makes complete sense because the return on investment is the attention, which in brand-world converts to a sale elsewhere (hopefully).

Brands use content to redirect attention, but for a media company, the content (i.e. the attention) is the lifeblood that formed its business in the first place.

The danger for traditional media businesses — newspapers, magazines, radio, TV — is that they participate in the marketing activity and don’t build any expertise in developing real commercial models on these platforms.

It’s too easy to put your stories on a Twitter feed, too easy to update the Facebook page every few hours with juicy tidbits. It’s almost as if you’re hoping all this marketing activity will drive people back to the thing you made money from in the Old World. Do you really think someone will read your posts and then become so enamoured with the stories that they’ll go out and buy the magazine??

And if not, then where is your money going to come from?

And please don’t say advertising. If advertising was a genuine moneyspinner, Coke would be advertising on its 24-million-friend Facebook page. Which it isn’t. If you’re very very lucky, you’ll get 5% of ad revenue online that you got offline from the same demographic and the same attention span.

Media companies have to experiment more with commercial models and stop thinking that just being part of the conversation is where it’s at. Media has always been good at being a part of the conversation. That’s not the difficult part if that’s the business you’re in. Now it needs to be as good at sales as an FMCG giant.

Trying doing what I suggested to a friend this morning: “For every new marketing activity you start up, start a commercial one.” That way when a few fail, you’ll have as much experience in commercial experiments as you do in turning editorial into conversation.

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About Morgan Holt

Morgan Holt is senior strategist at Wolff Olins, the global game-changing brand consultancy. He is also chairman of the Branded Content Marketing Association, and a non-executive director of CN Media Group.

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