The #1 Media Lesson Content Marketers Must Learn

Media Secret: Why Your Content Does Not Drive Sales

Girl Reading Newspaper-2 Roughly 90% of businesses, both B2B and B2C use content marketing. They heed the words, “Every marketer is a publisher.” (BTW—I wrote this article for ClickZ back in 2006.)

Yet, if you’re like most content marketers, you’re focused on creating as much content as possible as part of your content marketing strategy. In the process, you may be missing the key business lesson at the heart of every media entity.

It’s no surprise. Most of us grew up as media consumers, not publishers.

First some personal background: Since my dad was a Mad Man in the Don Draper era, our house was filled with lots of beautiful, glossy magazines along with weekly and monthly newspapers that appeared regularly via our mailman. Additionally, the New York Times was waiting on our stoop every morning.

All of this eye-catching, quality content excited me and made me want to work in media, particularly for a newspaper or television station.

At 18, I got my wish. I spent the summer working for the Leader-Observer, an established local newspaper in Queens, NY, that’s still in print. Despite the growing number of online news source, most local print newspapers remain relevant and viable businesses because people want hyper local news.

While I’d love to tell you a romantic story about how I applied to work at every publication within 50 miles of my home, the reality is I didn’t have any choice in the matter. My father had changed from being a Mad Man to being a publisher and he insisted that his children learn how the media business worked from the inside.

Until then, like most marketers, I thought that a media company’s key goal was to provide quality content to its audience. 

That summer I learned differently.

Beyond sharing my background, why am I telling you this? Girl Reading Newspaper-2

Because understanding how a media company works matters if your content marketing is to truly succeed and drive sales. It’s a change in mindset that makes all the difference in the world.

Without understanding the key elements of a media business, your content marketing is missing its true business objective.

Dad’s media secret

Content and related information are the reason most customers buy or consume media. But as my father taught me, the media secret of these businesses is that the content is NOT the product, it’s the journey!

You need your audience to be exposed to the content and then take action so that your advertisers know that their advertising worked.

Road By Alexandr Schwarz

For your business, like a media entity, providing quality content is a by-product of marketing your core offering of products and services. Your true goal is to generate profits for your company. Dad Media Secret

While creating content is important, you must still consider what’s key to driving sales. This is especially true for media companies such as The Economist where editorial is totally separated from the business of the media entity.

3 Types of media revenue generation

Media entities regardless of whether they’re websites, social media, print or television generate 3 types of revenue. (Here’s breakout of different media platforms complete with a helpful chart.

  1. Audience (aka Subscriptions). People pay to receive the media. For most media firms, subscriptions don’t carry the cost of servicing the customer but they’re critical because advertising rates are based on these numbers.
  2. Product offering (aka Media sales or Advertising). Companies and individuals pay to promote their products and services. Ads can take different formats based on the media entity and its core audience. Rates are based on the quality of the entity, the circulation—a fancy word for the number of readers, and their interests.
  3. Related products (aka Ancillary products). These are products related to the media entity’s content that drive incremental revenues. They encompass a diverse set of options from print books to conferences.

For my father’s local newspaper, subscriptions were a loss leader. They didn’t even cover the postal costs, let alone the printing and content costs. But he needed an audience (and a marketing persona.)

Local merchant advertising and legal notices were the local newspaper’s key sources of revenue. But he taught me, as a businessperson, you can’t remain confined to your established offering because it limits your ability to generate additional revenue. You continually need to find new income sources.

To increase advertising sales, my father implemented the following special advertising opportunities.

  • Holiday greetings. Every major public holiday, the office manager called every local business, doctor, lawyer and other professionals to place their greetings on a 2 page centerfold spread. Even people who didn’t advertise for other occasions sprung for these ads to keep their name top of mind.
  • Circular creation. My father leveraged his advertising operations to publish targeted advertising vehicles for merchants in his trading area.
  • Advertising distribution. My father delivered other people’s advertising inserts leveraging his existing network.

To further expand revenues, my father offered related services such as printing and advertising creation. 

What does a media entity’s 3 types of revenue mean for your content marketing?

Your content marketing doesn’t live in a vacuum. To attract prospects and win accolades it must drive revenues and more importantly profits. This is a reality many content marketers miss because creating and distributing content takes work and can seem like an end in itself. But it’s not.

Your content marketing must romance your target audience to get them interested in your product, get them to try your product, convince them to buy your product, help them to use your product and encourage them to tell their friends about your product.

Like media firms, these 3 revenue generators remain core to your firm’s sales and profitability. Their objectives are slightly different when it comes to owned media.

  1. Audience. These are the people who’ve raised their hand signaling that they’re interested in your content, business or products. Without them, you don’t have a community with whom to communicate. As a rule of thumb, assume that 1-2% of them will purchase from you.
  2. Product offering. This is your core product or service offering. Your goal is to get people interested not only in your products and service, but also to buy them from you.
  3. Related products. These are related products and services that you offer your customers to encourage them to use your product more or better, to purchase related upgrades and support and keep them part of your corporate family. It can include content.

The key to being a successful media entity is NOT about your content. It’s about the ability of your quality content to attract a sufficiently large audience to allow you to sell your core and related products.

The same is holds true for your content marketing. The content your organization creates and distributes must be so engaging and useful that it pulls your audience in and makes them keep reading more until they finally purchase from your company.

Like my father did, as your content attracts more customers, you have to expand your offering to continue to increase profitable revenues.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

P.S. This article is dedicated with love to my father who taught me about the media industry from the inside out.


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Photo Credits: 

  • http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/150538
  • https://unsplash.com/alexandrschwarz
  • http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/680784
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  • Getting hyper-focused on generating content can make you lose sight of what is the end game – I’m guilty of it nearly every day. I love that you wrote this from a personal perspective – it gave it teeth that a post like this needed. Thanks Heidi – great work!

  • Excellent article. I’m always reading different blogs on how to make more money and out of them all, this is probably my favourite one. Thank you.