Over the years you may have had to deal with your fair share of competition from other publications — but the newest crop of rivals fighting for their share of advertiser/audience pie may in fact be brands. As these brands morph into media platforms, traditional publishers will have to respond. Let’s look at how this trend might impact your own trade publication.
A New Threat to Digital Publishers?
An increasing number of high-profile brands, recognizing the power and potential of their online presences, have reimagined themselves as full-scale media publishing entities. As noted in Entrepreneur, both LinkedIn and Red Bull have enjoyed considerable success through this move. LinkedIn has acquired both its own multimedia publishers and third-party content from outside publishers, while Red Bull hosts its own content through its YouTube channel and other online outlets.
Does this mean that trade publishers should consider themselves in direct competition with brands? Well, yes and no. Both entities are capable to winning their shares of readers, buyers and advertisers; in that sense, publishing’s monopoly over the general public is long gone. But publishers still hold one very important trump card over these digital upstarts — the sheer strength of the relationships they can forge with long-time readers.
Subscribers who have spent years depending on a venerable publication for in-depth information and insights display a loyalty that’s hard to beat, especially compared to the more casual multi-channel approach of many brands. It’s worth noting, for instance, that Red Bull’s content isn’t actually written — it’s generated, in the form of YouTube videos and “magazine-style programming.”
There will always be audiences who prefer leisurely strolls through elegantly-written articles and compelling reports. Trade publications that focus on a specific niche may have relatively small audiences, but their ability to establish themselves as the authoritative voice on their subject ensures that those readers won’t be flitting off to lesser providers.
One further point in publishers’ favor is the fact that they’ve been accumulating years or decades’ worth of wisdom about how readers find and use their content. This gives them the edge in refining both their product and the marketing of that product.
Making the Brand Approach Work for You
That said, publishers can’t afford to turn a blind eye to what’s going on in the brand-as-publisher arena. On the contrary, they need to learn some valuable lessons from these brands’ success (or failure) stories for use in their own digital outreach efforts. For better or worse, content production and publication is a wide-open game now, and even the brands’ content is no competition for yours, their methods could still distract advertiser dollars away from your direction.
If brands are treading on your turf, why not tread on theirs? Your publication is a brand as well, after all, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t implement the same content marketing strategies to promote it as any other brand. Web-exclusive articles, online forums, video uploads, downloadable apps, and social media interaction can turn you into a powerhouse on your own terms — without sacrificing the appeal or editorial integrity of your publication.